Seattle, WA – Although many people may believe that asbestos was banned a long time ago, individuals are exposed to the toxic fibers because they are still used in industrial settings. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is working to see a bill passed that would ban asbestos, but her success is not guaranteed.
In 1989, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned asbestos in almost all of its uses, but a federal appeals court overturned the EPA's ban. Over 40 other countries have already banned the substance. Meanwhile, lawsuits are being filed against employers whose employees developed mesothelioma after workplace exposure to asbestos.
The most recent lawsuit filed was by James Weese, a man who worked from the 1940s through the early 1990s as a "pipefitter, laborer and welder in various locations including Illinois," according to the Madison St. Clair Record. The man alleges he developed mesothelioma after repeated exposure to asbestos. His lawsuit argues that defendants knew or should have known about the dangerous effects that asbestos fibers have on the health of people. Furthermore, he claims that asbestos was used even though adequate substitutes were also available. The lawsuit seeks at least $250,000 in damages.
A former teacher and foundry worker who died in March 2007 received $3.8 million from his asbestos lawsuit, filed last year. The suit claimed he was exposed to asbestos both at the school and at the foundry.
It is not just people who work with asbestos who are at risk of developing mesothelioma. Spouses and family members of people who work with the material are also at risk for developing the deadly disease. They are also filing lawsuits alleging that companies are responsible for their mesothelioma.
Gertrude Lowe filed an asbestos lawsuit claiming she was exposed to the substance from the clothing of family members. Her husband and other family members worked with and around products that contained asbestos. Fibers were then carried into the home where they became airborne. Lowe alleges that defendants used asbestos even though they knew that it was highly toxic and despite the availability of substitute products.
Mesothelioma is cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. It is a fatal disease that can take 20 years or more for symptoms to develop. Mesothelioma occurs when the cells of the mesothelium, the membrane that protects most of the internal organs of the body, become abnormal and divide uncontrollably. These cells can also damage nearby tissues and organs.
In most cases chemotherapy and radiation can do no more than add some time to victims' lives. Symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, anemia, wheezing, and pain in the chest that is attributed to accumulation of fluid. The average survival time of patients with mesothelioma is between six and twelve months from the time symptoms appear.
Asbestos is still widely used in many industrial products including brake pads. In addition to causing mesothelioma, it can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and other cancers.