Asbestos has plagued America’s industries for over a century. Its easy application in construction projects as flame-retardant insulation placed asbestos into thousands of American homes. Regulations and FDA guidelines have somewhat limited its use in modern times, but asbestos remains legal in many industries.

It may come as a surprise to many people to find asbestos in highly unlikely places. One area that asbestos may lurk is in an individual’s jewelry box within the cut gemstones.

Asbestos found in many mineral crystals

Widely available from jewelers and retail stores, gemstone jewelry is a classic style worn by many people. Others also collect these semiprecious stones as mineral specimens. Though one’s risk of exposure is low in these instances, any damage to the stones may release harmful asbestos fibers into the air.

Those at the largest risk of exposure are jewelers themselves. Jewelers cut these gemstones from mineral crystals through an intricate craft of shaving and polishing called lapidary. Lapidaries shape these crystals into the familiar gemstone shapes found in necklaces, rings and charms. Their high-speed saws and shaping equipment send thousands of particles into the air. Working with certain semiprecious stones increases one’s risk of exposure.

The gemstones known to contain asbestos are tiger’s eye, cat’s eye, hawk’s eye, silkstone, pietersite, binghamite, grossular garnet, brucite, and more.

Despite everything known about asbestos, scientists did not discover the fiber in semiprecious stones until 2003. Most cases of mesothelioma in the jewelry industry occur after years of exposure. Asbestos exposure contributes to the highest number of workplace-related deaths in the world, killing approximately 90,000 people every year. The complicated legal history of asbestos makes it unlikely that American citizens will ever see safer regulations.

Protect the family from exposure

The only recourse families have when exposed to asbestos is through legal means. Anyone with questions about their exposure to asbestos can find answers with a local attorney familiar with asbestos law. A lawyer can help navigate workers’ compensation paperwork so a family can focus on treatment and healing.