Mesothelioma and Asbestosis and Asbestos Exposure Rates
One only needs exposure to a small amount of asbestos to get mesothelioma, a rare cancer of your body’s mesothelium, the thin tissue that covers most internal organs. While treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation can extend your life, no cure currently exists for the condition. The type of mesothelioma a person has depends on which part of the mesothelium is affected:
- Pleural mesothelioma: Affects tissue surrounding the lungs. It is more common, accounting for approximately 75 percent of annual U.S. mesothelioma cases
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Affects tissue in the abdomen
- Pericardial mesothelioma: Affects tissue surrounding the heart
- Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis: Affects tissue surrounding the testicles
Mesothelioma symptoms depend on the form of mesothelioma:
- Pleural mesothelioma:
- Chest pain (most common)
- Shortness of breath (most common)
- Painful coughing
- Weight loss not attributed to other sources
- Peritoneal mesothelioma:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Weight loss not attributed to other sources
- Pericardial mesothelioma:
- Breathing difficulty
- Chest pains
- Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis:
- Swelling or a mass on a testicle
Patients have a life expectancy of about 12 months after a mesothelioma diagnosis but can live for up to 21 months or more with treatment.
The Connection Between Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Nearly 80 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have a history of asbestos exposure, which is the primary cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral with physical and chemical properties that make it resist degradation and heat. This makes it effective in insulation and other building materials like ceilings, roofing, flooring, and automotive parts. Mesothelioma, however, is caused when asbestos fibers break away, become airborne, and people inhale them. Asbestos fibers can travel to the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testes and stay within the mesothelium where they cause inflammation, scarring, and cell damage. Mesothelioma develops as a result, even decades after the initial exposure to asbestos.
Common Risk Factors Related to Asbestos Exposure
The most common asbestos exposure paths are occupational and environmental.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure
People who have worked daily with raw asbestos or products that contain asbestos are at the highest risk. This includes, but is not limited to, those working in construction, chemical plants, power plants, insulation, industry, and auto repair. For construction workers and demolition crews, exposure comes from the large number of construction materials containing asbestos before the 1980s. These materials remain in homes and commercial buildings. Houses and other structures that contain asbestos and catch fire can expose firefighters.
Environmental Asbestos Exposure
As a naturally occurring mineral, asbestos can form in large deposits. People who live in regions that contain more hills or mountains may have a higher risk of exposure because the ground can release asbestos naturally. Additionally, living near an asbestos mine or a contaminated site can significantly increase asbestos exposure. Disturbing asbestos products during a home renovation without proper safety measures can expose you to asbestos.
EPA and OSHA Regulatory Actions
Until the 20th century, mesothelioma was basically unknown, because warnings about asbestos only began in the 1970s. While more than 50 countries, including Canada and all countries in the EU, have completely banned the use of asbestos, the United States has not. Instead, the U.S. strictly regulates asbestos use and allows products that contain less than 1 percent of asbestos. A few attempts to ban asbestos did not succeed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to issue the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule (ABPR) in 1989. However, in Corrosion Proof Fittings v. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly two years later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban. The court also clarified that the ban could apply to certain products containing asbestos that were not being manufactured, processed or imported on the day of EPA’s initial announcement of ABPR. These include rollboard; commercial, corrugated, or specialty paper; flooring felt; and new uses of asbestos. The Murray Bill, introduced in 2002, attempted to impose a blanket ban on products containing asbestos where the asbestos was deliberately added or used, but did not move past the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007. The most recent attempt at a ban on asbestos-containing products came from the Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act in 2008, which did not make it past Congress. Today, the EPA and U.S. Department of Labour Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) jointly regulate asbestos abatement. The OSHA generally manages and implements occupational safety and health standards for U.S. workers’ working conditions and includes regulations on asbestos in the workplace.
EPA Asbestos Regulations
- Restrictions on the Discontinued Uses of Asbestos Rule (Toxic Substances Control Act, 2019):
- The Agency has enhanced power to review the list of asbestos-containing products that weren’t on the market before being sold again in the United States
- Individuals must notify the EPA at a minimum of 90 days before working with asbestos (manufacturing, processing, or importing) or asbestos-containing products included in the rule
- Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, 1987):
- Requires inspection of school buildings for asbestos-containing building material and take action to prevent asbestos hazards or minimize them
- Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (Clean Air Act, 1973):
- Stipulates work practices for asbestos, especially during any renovation or demolition of structures
- Asbestos General Standard (1995):
- Specifies the maximum asbestos exposure limits, worker training, appropriate respiratory protection, and asbestos waste disposal
- Asbestos Construction Standard (2002):
- Regulates construction work that involves asbestos
State laws differ on asbestos and asbestos-containing products. For example, New Jersey imposes a total ban on asbestos, whereas Kansas and Hawaii levy strict fines for improper asbestos use.
Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma can file a mesothelioma lawsuit through either personal injury or wrongful death claims. If you or a loved one received a mesothelioma diagnosis or was exposed to asbestos, then you could receive compensation from the health consequences endured from such exposure.
Personal injury Claims
In these claims, the plaintiff can obtain compensation from the company (or multiple companies, if applicable) that initially exposed him or her to asbestos. Fault is usually traced to the company’s failure to warn both employees and consumers of the dangers behind asbestos inhalation.
Wrongful Death Claim
If your loved one passed away from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, depending on the state in which you live, either certain relatives or the estate of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. The estate may continue the initial personal injury claim of a mesothelioma patient should the patient pass away before the personal injury claim resolves. In these claims, the estate receives and disburses the compensation, if awarded. While military veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma cannot sue the military for their exposure to asbestos, veterans may sue the companies that initially supplied asbestos-containing products to the military.
Mesothelioma Class-Action Lawsuits and Multidistrict Litigation
A class action lawsuit is when a single person or small group files a single lawsuit on behalf of multiple plaintiffs who have all suffered injuries or were harmed by the same defendant. Multidistrict litigation places many lawsuits filed by different plaintiffs in front of a single judge to determine some legal issues. If you or a loved one has mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos due to working at a specific company or with a specific material, you could join a class action lawsuit or multidistrict litigation. Your lawyer can explain the advantages and disadvantages of those approaches.
How much compensation can you receive from a mesothelioma or asbestos exposure claim?
The average compensation depends on your circumstances. An experienced mesothelioma attorney will fight for the most compensation the law will allow. Several factors influence settlement amounts for mesothelioma claims:
- Negligence of companies: Whether a manufacturer knowingly allowed asbestos products to harm employees or consumers
- Number of companies: Patients can file claims against multiple companies that manufactured products containing asbestos
- Jurisdiction: Some states limit the amount of damages for trial awards. States also differ in the amount of evidence required for proving liability, negligence, and wrongdoing on the defendant’s part.
Because diseases related to asbestos, like mesothelioma, tend to have a latency period of nearly two decades from the point of first exposure, you will want to an experienced mesothelioma attorney to determine whom you can hold accountable for your illness.
What to Do if You or a Loved One Was Exposed to Asbestos
If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos, consult a healthcare professional to determine whether you have mesothelioma. If ya doctor diagnoses you with mesothelioma, contact an attorney quickly to pursue a personal injury claim. The compensation that you may receive for yourself or a lost loved one can help reduce financial struggles for your family and provide a stable future for your loved ones. You can contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA about a free consultation on your claim by either filling out a contact form online or calling our office at (727) 451-6900.