Asbestos exposure has been shown to cause mesothelioma. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a group of fibrous minerals that are found in rock. Asbestos fibers are strong, as well as heat- and fire-resistant. For decades asbestos has been mined and used to make a variety of products, including building materials, fire-resistant fabrics,and friction products. Because asbestos is mined from the earth in a similar way to talc used in talcum powder, and in many of the same locations, it also has been found that talcum powder used for cosmetics and hygiene may also be contaminated with deadly asbestos fibers.
How does asbestos exposure happen?
Asbestos fibers can be released into the air when material containing asbestos is disturbed, broken or crushed, such as during use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, remodeling, and in the manufacturing of products that contain asbestos.
Because of the fibers’ natural resistance to heat and fire, asbestos was commonly used in a wide range of building construction materials like insulation, roof shingles, ceiling, floor tiles, paper products, and cement products. Asbestos can also be found in friction products like automobile clutches, brakes and transmission parts, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can stick to mucus in the throat, trachea, or bronchi (large breathing tubes in the lungs). From here, the fibers can be cleared by being coughed up or swallowed. Some fibers can work their way to the ends of the small airways in the lungs or penetrate the outer lining of the lung and chest wall, called the pleura. These fibers can irritate cells in the lung or pleura and eventually develop into mesothelioma.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure
More than 100 years ago, asbestos was linked to serious illnesses including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis, a progressive lung disease caused by severe fibrosis. Because the onset of mesothelioma symptoms can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years, asbestos exposure often was missed as a cause of a worker’s illness. Mesothelioma symptoms are often mistaken for other, more common, illnesses until the connection is made between asbestos exposure and the symptoms.
Once asbestos became known as a carcinogen, its use in the U.S. declined. Those who work in environments where asbestos is present are now required to wear protective clothing such as coveralls or similar full-body clothing, head covering, gloves, and foot coverings. Despite these protective measures, people can still be exposed to asbestos in the workplace. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) recently estimated that more than a million American employees in construction and general industries face significant asbestos exposure on the job.
The mining and use of asbestos continue in other parts of the world including the Russian Federation, China, Kazakhstan, Brazil and Zimbabwe. Canada stopped mining asbestos in 2011 and completely banned the manufacture, import, export, sale and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products as of Dec. 30, 2018. In 2005, the World Health Organization estimated that 125 million people have been exposed to the carcinogenic mineral at their job sites.
Despite the known risks of asbestos exposure, it has still not been completely banned in the United States.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure
People with primary asbestos exposure tend to be those who worked in environments that were contaminated with asbestos. But these workers can bring home asbestos fibers on their bodies, clothing and shoes, putting family members – spouses, children and parents – at risk for secondary asbestos exposure.
For example, washing the clothes of someone whose clothes are contaminated with asbestos can increase the risk of secondary asbestos exposure, which can lead to the development of mesothelioma.
Men are more likely to have mesothelioma through workplace exposure, as traditionally more men have worked in manufacturing and industry jobs while their wives stayed home and did household chores, like laundry. A 1997 study conducted by Durham and Duke University Medical Centers involving women with mesothelioma found that more than half of them were victims of secondary asbestos exposure either from a parent, spouse or child working in asbestos-contaminated environments.
Asbestos can also be found in talc, another mineral found naturally in rock. Talc is used to make talcum powders used in personal hygiene, including baby powders, and some cosmetics, increasing risk for non-occupational or secondary asbestos exposure. Testing has even found asbestos in products marketed to children.
Asbestos Poisoning Symptoms
Anyone who is exposed to asbestos dust is at risk of developing serious illnesses related to inhaling or ingesting the toxic microscopic fibers. When inhaled, the fibers can irritate and scar lung tissue. The scars are stiffer than healthy lung tissue and can make it difficult for the lungs to expand properly and for lung cells to generate oxygen. This scarring is called asbestosis. Inhalation of asbestos fibers also can cause lung cancer. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough, and a tight feeling in the chest.
Asbestos exposure also can lead to the development of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. There are 4 types of mesothelioma – pleural, affecting the lining of the lungs and chest cavity; pericardial, affecting the lining of the abdomen; pericardial, affecting the lining of the heart; and tunica vaginalis, affecting the lining of the testicles. Symptoms and treatments vary depending on the type of mesothelioma, but there is no known cure for mesothelioma. Although people who are exposed to asbestos regularly may be more likely to develop mesothelioma, experts warn there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Cases have been documented in people even briefly exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos Industry Cover-ups
Decades after the dangers of asbestos had become widely known, some companies continued to try to cover up evidence that their workplaces were toxic to workers and their families.
The EWG Action Fund/Asbestos Nation is a nonprofit organization that works to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide variety of environmental issues. The organization called the attempt of corporations and their lawyers to hide the risks of asbestos a “70-year conspiracy,” and references numerous examples of how the asbestos industries paid tens of millions of dollars to sway public opinion about asbestos and protect their profits.
The asbestos industry is not finished. A well-funded lobbying effort is currently underway at both the state and federal levels pushing legislation that would make it more difficult for asbestos victims and their families to be compensated by corporations responsible for making them sick.
All too often these giant corporations are choosing profits over people and until they are forced to pay they will continue on with their blatant disregard for the health and well-being of their employees and their consumers. An experienced asbestos lawyer can help families make it through a very difficult time and make certain the manufacturers of these unsafe asbestos products compensate victims fairly.
Mesothelioma Lawsuits and Asbestos Regulations
Asbestos has been linked to serious diseases – especially mesothelioma – by the medical profession since the late 1920s, which led to the development of workers’ compensation laws. By the 1970s, the fight became more public when those sickened by asbestos exposure and their loved ones began filing mesothelioma lawsuits. Cases continued to be filed through subsequent decades and into today.
Current-day asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits alleging workplace asbestos exposure target a variety of defendants including manufacturers of machinery; owners of workplaces where asbestos-containing products were installed; retailers of asbestos-containing products like hardware, home improvement and automotive parts stores; corporations that deliberately withheld asbestos risks from workers; makers of tools used to cut asbestos-containing parts; and manufacturers of respiratory protective equipment.
Since asbestos was linked to mesothelioma and other serious diseases, 60 countries around the world have banned the use of asbestos in whole or in part.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates asbestos as a hazardous material. There is no general ban on asbestos in the U.S.; however, asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants to be regulated under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act of 1970. Many applications of asbestos were later forbidden under the Toxic Substance Control Act. Today, asbestos use is regulated according to federal, state and local laws, but the regulations are not consistent across the board and are complicated.
Asbestos is still allowed to be used in some products, but workers are required to wear protective clothing, such as coveralls or similar full-body clothing, head covering, gloves and foot coverings, to protect themselves as much as possible from asbestos exposure.
Handling a mesothelioma lawsuit is challenging and often heartbreaking. Because there is usually a long time between asbestos exposure and the development of symptoms, individuals and families are often caught off-guard by the diagnosis. While there are treatment options for mesothelioma, often the cancer is advanced by the time symptoms are recognized and a mesothelioma diagnosis can be made, making the prognosis grim. Our mesothelioma lawyers are dedicated to obtaining justice for families, holding accountable those who placed profits above the safety of workers and consumers.
Our asbestos exposure attorneys are experienced at connecting the dots from the diagnosis back to a workplace or product that is the likely source of the illness.
If you or your loved one has suffered a serious injury, or your loved one has died as a result of asbestos exposure or mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. Please contact our asbestos lawyers today by filling out the brief questionnaire, or by calling our toll-free number (1-800-898-2034) for a free, no-cost, no-obligation legal evaluation of your case.