Asbestos is a mineral that was used for decades to make auto parts, boilers, cement, insulation, pipes, roofing, ships, and countless other products. Tragically, we now know that asbestos can cause diseases like mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer whose symptoms often take 10-50 years to appear. As a result, people who develop an asbestos-related disease — and their loved ones — may qualify for compensation.

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Amy Garrett

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Amy E. Garrett

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was prized for its durability and heat resistance. Unfortunately, asbestos is also the only known cause of mesothelioma, a fatal type of cancer found in the tissue lining the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles. People who develop an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma or asbestosis may be able to recover compensation by filing a lawsuit against the company or companies that made the asbestos products they were exposed to.

What Is Asbestos Used For?

Though its use has declined over the past 30 years, historically asbestos has been a key component in the following:

  • Aircraft, automotive, and train parts (brakes, clutches, gaskets, and insulation)
  • Construction materials (cement, insulation, flooring, paint, plaster, roofing, and wallboards)
  • Heat-resistant clothing/gear (worn by firefighters, metalworkers, etc.)
  • Manufacturing (particularly cement plants, steel mills, and textile mills)
  • Military bases
  • Power plants
  • Railroads
  • Shipbuilding (boilers, incinerators, pipes, and soundproofing, among other parts)
  • Utilities and HVAC

For decades, if a manufacturer needed a product to be light, durable, and resistant to heat or electricity, asbestos would often be their first choice. That changed as evidence mounted showing that asbestos could cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer whose symptoms can take 20-50 years to appear.

Who Is Most at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?

The people most at risk of asbestos exposure are those who work or worked in the industries where asbestos was most prominent, and their loved ones. These include:

  • Aircraft and auto mechanics
  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Factory workers
  • Firefighters
  • Insulators
  • Metalworkers
  • Military personnel (especially U.S. Navy veterans)
  • Miners
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Railroad workers
  • Shipbuilders
  • Shipyard workers
  • Teachers who worked in older schools

(Please note that the above is not a complete list, and people who worked in other fields could also have suffered occupational exposure.) It’s also possible for someone to be exposed to asbestos secondhand. For example, a factory worker could bring asbestos fibers home on their clothes, unknowingly exposing and endangering their loved ones, who can inhale the fibers. Mesothelioma patients who were exposed to asbestos — whether it was firsthand or secondhand — may qualify for compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

How Much Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma?

There is not a requisite amount or duration of asbestos exposure that causes mesothelioma; even short-term or infrequent exposure can have devastating consequences. Though longer, more concentrated exposure increases the risk, a person does not necessarily even have to experience exposure firsthand to develop mesothelioma, asbestosis, or another asbestos-related disease.

When Was Asbestos Banned?

Unfortunately, asbestos has not been fully banned in the U.S., though its use has declined dramatically over the past few decades. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibits the use of certain asbestos-containing materials, but asbestos can still be used to make clothing, roof coating, and vinyl flooring, for example. According to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), 67 other countries have national bans on asbestos use, including most of Europe and much of South America, as well as Algeria, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa.

What Should I Do if I Was Exposed to Asbestos?

If you believe you were exposed to asbestos — even if it was decades ago — and you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult a doctor right away:

Symptoms of Asbestos

  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Testicular swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

A physician can use imaging tests, blood tests, and a biopsy to determine if you have mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease. If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, contact an attorney who may be able to help you pursue compensation to cover medical bills and other losses.

Can I Sue for Asbestos Exposure?

Many asbestos product manufacturers knew the dangers of asbestos but failed to warn or protect workers. As a result, mesothelioma patients may be able to file a lawsuit against these companies seeking compensation for their suffering. An asbestos lawyer can determine if you qualify for a lawsuit, and how much money you might be owed. By filing a claim, people with asbestos-related diseases may be able to recover the following damages:

  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Lost wages
  • Medical expenses (the cost of chemotherapy, surgery, etc.)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages
  • Travel expenses (related to treatment)
  • Funeral expenses (in wrongful death cases)

Most of these lawsuits are settled before going to trial. The average mesothelioma settlement is $1-1.4 million. Even if you don’t qualify for an asbestos lawsuit, you could still recover compensation through an asbestos trust fund or benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if you’re a veteran. An attorney can help navigate these paths to justice, too.

Who Is the Best Asbestos Lawyer for My Case?

If you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and want to see if you qualify for compensation, you should contact an attorney who checks the following boxes:

  • Experience: Ideally, you should work with a law firm that specializes in asbestos claims and who has been filing these types of cases for years, if not decades. They’ll know when, where, and how to file your claim to boost your chances of success.
  • Resources: Access to top mesothelioma doctors — as well as a database of asbestos job sites in all 50 states — can be crucial to maximizing your compensation.
  • A Winning Track Record: Before you hire an attorney, make sure they have a history of successfully recovering compensation for clients who have mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. If they don’t, you should probably find someone who does.

The asbestos lawyers in our network don’t charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees — they only get paid if they successfully resolve your case. That means there’s no financial risk to reaching out for a free case evaluation, and no reason to delay.

Contact us today to speak with a top asbestos lawyer.

Amy Garrett

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Amy E. GarrettPartner

  • Lawyer
  • Editor

Amy Garrett is a partner at Simmons Hanly Conroy with more than 22 years of litigation experience. Amy has helped the firm secure billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for clients. Over the past two decades, she has gained a reputation as a litigator who advocates for her asbestos and complex litigation clients both inside and outside the courtroom. Icon

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  1. International Asbestos Ban Secretariat. “Current Asbestos Bans.” July 15, 2019. Retrieved February 8, 2022 from
  2. Lexis Legal News. “4th Circuit Affirms Jury Instructions, $32.7 Million Asbestos Award.” Mealey’s. August 25, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2022 from
  3. Lexis Legal News. “Asbestos Verdicts And Settlements: January 2019 – December 2019.” Mealey’s. July 30, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2022 from
  4. Mayo Clinic. “Mesothelioma.” October 20, 2020. Retrieved February 8, 2022 from
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