A Question of Responsibility
Whose Asbestos Caused Her Lung Disease?
Department of Physical Science
Southwestern Illinois College
Most students are aware that asbestos is a health hazard, but don’t know that “asbestos” refers to a variety of minerals with both useful and harmful properties. In this case, students answer questions they have about asbestos in the context of a personal injury lawsuit. They learn about different asbestos types and uses, as well as how people are exposed to and harmed by asbestos. Students apply what they learn to the lawsuit presented in the case as well as in a follow-up activity in which they weigh the risks of leaving asbestos in public buildings against the risks of removing it.
- Distinguish between asbestiform minerals, non-asbestiform fibers, and asbestos as defined by laws and regulatory agencies.
- Compare and contrast the five different varieties of amphibole and one type of serpentine that are regulated as asbestos. Comment specifically on each mineral’s structure, how the mineral forms fibers, and the qualities of each mineral’s fibers.
- Identify the properties that make asbestos useful and the properties that make it harmful. Discuss how specific mineral properties lead both to the usefulness and harmfulness of asbestos.
- Describe (in general) how asbestos enters the body and causes harm. Summarize the conditions under which asbestos exposure most likely will lead to disease.
KeywordsMineralogy; mineral fiber; asbestos; asbestosis; mesothelioma; amphibole; serpentine; asbestos removal; asbestos abatement; lawsuit
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Subject HeadingsGeology | Earth Science | Environmental Science | Public Health | Toxicology | Epidemiology |
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