Asbestos was used throughout the 20th century in the U.S. as a common material for construction and manufacturing. The benefits to asbestos in those industries were clear — it was used because its fibers are strong but not heavy, and it provides both insulation and fire-resistant qualities.
But what they didn’t know was just how harmful it is to human health.
Asbestos is no longer used in the U.S. in new construction or manufacturing, but it’s still present in many older buildings and homes. Health hazards exist under certain conditions for people who live in homes or work in buildings with asbestos, or those whose jobs could pose an exposure risk.
Asbestos enters the human body when a person inhales microscopic fibers (dust).
Once inhaled, these fibers can enter the lower region of the lungs and cause asbestosis lung disease, changes in the lining of the chest cavity, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
There are 3 primary ways people become exposed to asbestos:
It’s also possible to be diagnosed with secondary mesothelioma. For example, a person goes to work in a factory each day and is exposed to asbestos fibers in the manufacturing process. When that person returns home, the fibers might still be present on their shoes and clothes, and could contribute to mesothelioma in a family member who’s exposed to those items.
Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer that generally affects people who’ve been exposed to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is usually fatal, but symptoms often don’t appear until 30 to 40 years after exposure. In many cases, symptoms appear sooner when there’s a higher level of exposure.
Symptoms of mesothelioma include:
In many cases, a doctor observes signs of mesothelioma in a patient who goes to the doctor for another reason. Sometimes, a patient might get an X-ray or blood test that shows something unusual that causes the doctor to suspect mesothelioma. If the doctor suspects that you have mesothelioma, a biopsy can provide confirmation.
Mesothelioma is often undiagnosed before stage 3 or stage 4 because symptoms like chest pain, weight loss, and fatigue appear as a result of tumors pressing against nerves, organs, and bones. Once that begins to happen, the disease is already fairly progressed.
Occasionally, there’s enough fluid buildup around the lungs in stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma that a patient might experience shortness of breath or coughing that can lead to an earlier diagnosis.
The most common type of the disease is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lungs. There are other parts of the body that could be affected by mesothelioma, including:
There are 3 primary treatments for mesothelioma:
Some patients are also given multimodal treatment, which involves a combination of treatment options.
Patients who are diagnosed in the early stages of mesothelioma are most likely to benefit from surgery to remove the tumors from their chest cavities.
Researchers are continually evaluating new and improved methods for treating mesothelioma. There are experimental treatments available, and it’s possible that these options could become conventional treatments in the future.
In the building/construction industry, the most common ways for asbestos to be used were:
Asbestos can also be contained in plastics and textiles like protective clothes, fire blankets, and fire-retardant upholstery, along with tools, cookware, appliances, and cars.
In addition, asbestos has been found in:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action against asbestos beginning in 1973.
Houses built between 1930 and 1950 could still have asbestos in the insulation. It could also be in some textured paints and compounds in wall or ceiling joints. Use was banned in 1977, but it might still be present in homes built before that time.
Asbestos is only hazardous when you breathe it in.
If your tiles, insulation, or other asbestos-containing materials are sealed, the asbestos isn’t airborne. Asbestos is only dangerous when it crumbles into dust or powder. If you suspect there might be asbestos in your home, it’s best to consult a professional before beginning any major home improvements that involve demolition of the walls or other parts of your home.
Yes, you can still be exposed to asbestos. Even though asbestos is more tightly regulated than ever before, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that 1.3 million Americans are exposed to significant amounts of asbestos in the workplace each day.
Ordinarily, any injury that happens in the workplace would be covered under a workers’ compensation claim. However, if your asbestos injury leaves you with catastrophic or permanent illness, you might be better off with a personal injury lawsuit. A lawyer can advise about what your best option would be.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you’re probably wondering if there are legal options for compensation.
There are several types of mesothelioma lawsuits:
Your lawyer can advise on the best method for you to pursue a mesothelioma lawsuit.
Any personal injury lawsuit hinges on causation, or proof that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. That’s what makes a mesothelioma lawsuit complicated — because the nature of the illness is that symptoms don’t appear for years or decades after exposure, it can be hard to link the exposure to the disease or even prove that you were exposed to asbestos at all.
Usually, there are 2 elements to being eligible for a mesothelioma lawsuit:
The statute of limitations varies by state but begins to run on the date of your diagnosis. Once diagnosed, consult a lawyer to find out how long you have to file a mesothelioma lawsuit in your state.
The documents you’ll need to present to the court will include medical records, employment documents, and testimony and details about the asbestos exposure. You’ll also need to present documentation of costs related to your medical treatment and other financial damages.
In order to prove that the defendant would be the liable party for the asbestos exposure, your lawyer might apply the “frequency, regularity, proximity” test set forth in the Lohrmann v. Pittsburgh Corning Corp. case in 1985.
If you’ve been in multiple workplaces and could’ve been exposed to asbestos in more than one, the court would look for evidence to prove:
Even if you’re no longer working, you might still be able to receive compensation. A personal injury lawyer can investigate your occupational history and determine when you were most likely exposed to asbestos and who the responsible parties would be.
Your rights could include compensation from:
The Enjuris Personal Injury Law Firm Directory can help you find a lawyer near you who will advise you about your rights, what your best options are for pursuing a mesothelioma lawsuit or settlement, and what to do next.