Asbestos exposure has injured an entire generation of American workers, yet it is still commonly found in many U.S. products.
Inhaling or swallowing even microscopic particles of asbestos can lead to asbestosis, a painful scarring of the lungs connected to breathing problems and heart failure.
Asbestosis develops anywhere from 10 to 50 years after the initial exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths in the United States from asbestosis increased 400% from 1968 (77 deaths) to 2002 (1,493 deaths).
A separate study by the Environmental Working Group which included deaths from mesothelioma (a rare but aggressive form of asbestos-related cancer that involves the cell lining of the lungs, chest and abdomen), asbestosis, gastrointestinal and other asbestos related lung cancers estimates around 10,000 U.S. deaths per year due to asbestos exposure.
Experts believe that the mortality rate associated with asbestos will continue to climb because the risk of asbestos exposure remains high in many jobs and industries even today.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to several naturally occurring fiber-like minerals, including chrysotile, amosite, anthophyllite and crocidolite. During World War II, asbestos was commonly used in ships. Many longshoremen, pipe fitters, insulators and other shipyard workers unwittingly put themselves at risk each day as they reported to their jobs.
Throughout the 1960s to the 1980s, asbestos was a widely-used ingredient found in building materials.
Although asbestos has been mined since the 1800’s, its dangers only started to be recognized in the early 20th Century.
Because asbestos fibers tend to break easily and form dust, asbestos dust can be inhaled, swallowed or piggyback itself onto clothing. Breathing or swallowing asbestos may result in asbestos-related disease and death.
Contrary to what many people believe, asbestos has not been banned and remains in a variety of products today ranging from potting soil to insulators, fire retardants, brake linings, pipeline wrap and roofing.
Who Is At Risk
Workers who manufactured or installed asbestos products have the highest exposure risk.
Industrial sites including shipyards, power plants, paper mills refineries, manufacturing plants, foundries and schools also put workers in contact with heavy amounts of asbestos.
Other jobs in which workers were exposed to asbestos include: heating, venting and air conditioning; plumbing; pipefitting; plastering; electrical; mechanical; bricklaying; milling; carpentry; steel plants; refineries and maintenance.
Most people with asbestos-related diseases contracted them through their jobs; some who brought asbestos home from the job site on their clothing exposed their families as well.
There is no known safe exposure to asbestos. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
Materials Containing Asbestos
Most insulation material produced before the mid 1970’s contained asbestos.
These include: pipe insulation; fireproofing sprays; boiler insulation; insulation plaster, cements, and joint compounds which originated in powder form; fireproofing materials; firebrick and gunnite; acoustic and thermal insulation; roof, floor and ceiling tiles; brakes and clutches and some siding materials.
The amount of time between exposure to asbestos and the first signs of disease can be as much as 50 years. Smokers exposed to asbestos have a much greater chance of developing lung cancer than just from smoking alone.
Who Can Sue
There are two types of lawsuits for claiming asbestos compensation. A person suffering from Asbestosis can file a personal injury lawsuit with a product liability attorney to receive compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, and for pain and suffering.
A loved one of a person who died because of Asbestosis can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the company who put his or her family member at a risk of contracting the disease.
A family member who has contracted Asbestosis from a spouse or parent may also be eligible to file a suit.
Laws and procedures vary for each type of claim, and also differ from state to state.
There is a time limit for filing a suit, starting from the date of your diagnosis. There are also several other factors that determine legal liability, such as proving negligence on the part of the asbestos company or manufacturer responsible for putting you or your family member at risk for an asbestos-related disease.
An expert attorney who understands asbestos cases, victim rights and related legal procedure, can work with you to prove that your claim is lawful.
One of the first symptoms alerting people exposed to asbestos that they have a health problem is diagnosis of mesothelioma
. Depending on the type of asbestos-related cancer, the pain may be felt in the chest or the abdomen. If the cancer spreads, pain may be experienced in other areas of the body as well.
Most mesothelioma pain is caused by fluid buildup. As the tumor grows and expands, it produces fluid. Fluid in the chest compresses the lung, causing intense pain. Mesothelioma pain can cause difficulties sleeping and loss of appetite as the fluid slowly crushes vital organs.
Compensation amounts range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, but there is a time limit ( which starts from the date of your diagnosis) within which you can file a suit for recovering compensation.
$4,442,200.00 was awarded to a 37-year-old mechanic and construction worker who developed mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos through his work in Colorado and Texas.
$3,502,850.00 was awarded to a 76-year-old former welder and mechanic who developed malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos at a Massachusetts power plant worker as well as during his Navy service.
READ MORE ABOUT MESOTHELIOMA