Mesothelioma and Asbestos

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of fibrous minerals found in rock and soil. Asbestos fibers are strong and fire resistant. They are mined from the earth and used to make a variety of products, including building materials, fire-resistant materials, and talcum powders.

There are two types of asbestos – serpentine and amphiboles. Both are linked to .

  • Serpentine fibers are curly and pliable. Chrysotile is the only type of serpentine fiber and it is the most widely used form of asbestos.
  • Amphiboles are thin, rod-like fibers. There are five main types — crocidolite, amosite, anthrophylite, tremolite, and actinolyte.  Amphiboles (particularly crocidolite) are considered to be the most carcinogenic.

Asbestos exposure

Asbestos fibers are microscopic and can float in the air for days. Undisturbed asbestos does not pose a health risk. But building renovations, demolitions and fires – as well as working in environments with products that contain asbestos – can cause these tiny fibers to go airborne. When asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they can penetrate the pleural lining of the lungs and chest wall. These fibers may directly damage mesothelial cells of the pleura and eventually cause mesothelioma.

Asbestos has also been linked to the incurable, chronic lung disease asbestosis, , and cancers of the kidney and larynx.

Mesothelioma from asbestos exposure can lie dormant for decades. Once diagnosed, the disease usually proves fatal within 12 to 24 months.

Asbestos products

Because of asbestos fibers’ natural resistance to heat and fire, asbestos was commonly used in a wide range of building construction materials for insulation, like roof shingles, ceiling and 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. Its use was largely discontinued after 1989, but it is still used in some products and can still be found in older buildings. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as many as 733,000 schools and public buildings across the country still contain asbestos insulation.

People 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 continues in other parts of the world including the Russian Federation, China, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Canada and Zimbabwe. In 2005, the World Health Organization estimated that 125 million people have been exposed to the carcinogenic mineral at their job sites.

Secondary asbestos exposure

Secondary asbestos exposure carries the same risk as primary asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. People with primary asbestos exposure tend to be those who worked in environments where asbestos was present. 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 mesothelioma and other health problems.

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 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, a nonprofit organization that works to protect health and the environment, called the attempt of corporations and their lawyers to hide the risks of asbestos a “70-year conspiracy.” The organization also 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 from corporations responsible for making them sick.

All too often these giant corporations that manufacture and sell asbestos-containing products are choosing profits over people and until they are forced to pay for their blatant disregard for the health and well being of others. 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.

Asbestos litigation

Asbestos has been linked to serious diseases by the medical profession since the late 1920s, which led to the handling of workers compensation cases in secret. By the 1970s, the fight became more public when those sickened by asbestos exposure and their loved ones began filing lawsuits. Cases continued to be filed through subsequent decades and into today.

A massive multidistrict litigation involving asbestos claims has been pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for more than 20 years. Some cases have been resolved, but many continue to be fought by individuals.

Current-day asbestos 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 allegedly deliberately withheld asbestos risks from workers; makers of tools used to cut asbestos-containing parts; and manufacturers of respiratory protective equipment.

Asbestos regulation

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, asbestos was never banned, but beginning in 1971, regulations were put in place to limit asbestos exposure in the workplace. As a result, use of the carcinogen substantially decreased in the United States.

Asbestos is still 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.

Asbestos lawyer

If your loved one has suffered a serious injury or death 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 (800-898-2034) for a free, no-cost, no-obligation legal evaluation of your case.