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Asbestos Exposure in the Jewelry Industry

Prior to the 1980s, at which point the federal government took steps to regulate the use of asbestos in manufacturing and commercial goods, many industries relied on this mineral. This includes the jewelry industry, which used raw asbestos fibers for their fire-resistant and corrosion-resistant properties. If you or a loved one worked as a jeweler or jewelry tradesman and were exposed to asbestos, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

What Are the Risks of Asbestos? 

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer in humans. It was confirmed publicly that all six types of asbestos minerals were carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1987. It was only at this point that the use of asbestos became regulated for health and safety reasons in the United States. Until this time, thousands of industries relied heavily on the use of asbestos to manufacture their consumer goods. This includes the jewelry industry.

Sadly, being exposed to even a small amount of asbestos could cause cancer and other irreversible health problems in workers and consumers. Miniscule asbestos particles and fibers can get lodged within the body, causing scar tissue and inflammation that can result in cancerous tumors over time. The National Cancer Institute states that there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure, but that people who are exposed to it regularly – such as on the job – are at a higher risk of developing related illnesses and diseases.

What Are the Concerns Regarding Asbestos in Jewelry?

Asbestos was relied upon by the jewelry industry for many decades. Since the making of jewelry uses high temperatures to melt and mold the metals (soldering), asbestos was a cost-effective option for fireproofing. Asbestos was often used to make soldering forms and sheets at jewelry production facilities. Jewelers often mixed asbestos with water to create a clay-like mixture to hold pieces of the jewelry together during the soldering process. Some jewelers from this time period even report buckets of loose asbestos fibers beneath their workbenches for soldering.

Today, jewelry made with asbestos still exists around the world. Millions of pieces of jewelry were created using materials that contained asbestos prior to its regulation in the United States. This jewelry could expose victims to asbestos today – especially if gemstones that contain asbestos are damaged or broken and release asbestos particles into the air. In addition, anyone who worked with or around jewelry while production companies were still openly using asbestos may have been exposed on the job. For example, a worker whose job was to sweep asbestos dust from the floors of jewelry shops was likely exposed.

Finally, certain gemstones naturally contain asbestos. Asbestos is found in natural deposits and mines throughout the world. Sometimes, gemstones share these mines. If a gemstone is cut from mineral crystals that were found in the same rocks or deposits as asbestos, the gemstone jewelry may contain asbestos fibers. The process of cutting and shaping these gemstones could release asbestos fibers into the air, as could be the case if the gemstone breaks. Common examples are silkstone, brucite, tiger’s eye, cat’s eye, hawk’s eye, natrolite, scolecite and mesolite.

Who Is Most at Risk of Asbestos Exposure in the Jewelry Industry?

Jewelers face the highest risk of asbestos exposure from gemstones, as they are around the stones the most. Jewelers are the most likely to be around gemstones and metal jewelry items that are damaged, broken or ground down – all situations that could potentially release asbestos from the gemstones into the air to be inhaled or ingested. Being around asbestos-containing jewelry regularly or daily increases the odds of developing an illness connected to asbestos. These illnesses include mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

Jewelers also report using gloves that were made out of asbestos. Again, this was due to the natural fire-resistant properties of this mineral. When used in gloves, the asbestos could protect the worker’s hands from sources of heat, such as soldering tools and hot metals. Unfortunately, workers were unknowingly exposed to other health risks from the asbestos gloves themselves. Anyone who had a job in jewelry making or manufacturing prior to the 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos.

Signs of Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

Asbestos-related illnesses have an extremely long latency period. On average, it takes 20 to 60 years for asbestos exposure to result in the development of mesothelioma or other health problems. This means a jeweler or jewelry manufacturer may not detect the signs of asbestos exposure or be diagnosed with an illness until many decades after having this job. By the time the signs and symptoms of asbestos exposure are noticeable, it is too late.

Some of the potential signs of asbestos exposure are:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Respiratory problems
  • Pain or tightness in the chest 
  • Persistent, dry cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lumps forming under the skin of the chest

Sadly, there is no known cure for asbestos-related diseases. For example, someone who is diagnosed with mesothelioma has an average life expectancy of 12 to 21 months with treatment, according to the National Library of Medicine. Although not all asbestos diseases are terminal, they are permanent and can impact a patient for life. 

Who Could Be Held Responsible for Asbestos Exposure in the Jewelry Industry?

Jewelers and other professionals who worked in the jewelry industry and were exposed to asbestos on the job may be eligible for financial compensation after being diagnosed with related health problems. If the jewelry manufacturing company or facility failed to protect its workers from asbestos exposure, the company could be held responsible. For example, if a jewelry manufacturer negligently failed to provide employees with respirator masks and appropriate air filters, the company could be held liable for worker illnesses.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness after working with or around gemstones and jewelry, contact the Williams Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation. Our lawyers may be able to help you recover the financial compensation that you deserve after being exposed to asbestos in the jewelry industry. This may include compensation for your past and future medical bills, surgeries, therapies, palliative care, lost wages, disability, and/or the loss of a loved one’s life. Discuss a potential lawsuit in more detail with one of our attorneys today when you call (212) 668-1122.

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