Officials with the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have said that no toxic substance has had a more harmful effect on public health than asbestos.
From the miners who quarried the mineral to the manufacturers who passed their products to the consumer, millions have run the risk of asbestos exposure. From 1940 to 1970, approximately 27.5 million people were potentially exposed to asbestos at work. In many cases, companies intentionally withheld the dangers of asbestos from unsuspecting workers.
Hardly anyone working at a manufacturing job was safe from exposure. Their families weren’t safe either. Employees have brought asbestos-contaminated clothing from the workplace into the family home, exposing family members to asbestos.
Because of asbestos’ qualities as an insulator, many different people employed in the manufacturing industry risked exposure just going to work every day, whether they were handling the asbestos directly or happened to be working near asbestos-containing products. According to the Asbestos Information Association, there are more than 3,000 household and commercial products that contain asbestos. About 1.2 billion square feet of asbestos insulation can be found in hundreds of thousands of buildings in the United States.
Residents who live near mining, milling and manufacturers also run the risk of chrysotile asbestos exposure. According to some estimates, fibers released from construction sites have resulted in environmental asbestos levels approximately 100 times greater than the levels that naturally occur in the environment.
Because of its high resistance to heat, fire and corrosion, asbestos-containing products were commonly used aboard many Navy ships through the 1970s. Sadly, this has led to a disproportionately high number of mesothelioma diagnoses in Navy and other military veterans. Even Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations in the 1970s , was felled by mesothelioma due to his exposure to asbestos while serving in the Navy.
Sources: Occupational Exposure to Asbestos, 51 Fed. Reg. 22,615 (June 20, 1986); William J. Nicholson, “Occupational Exposure to Asbestos: Population at Risk and Projected Mortality – 1980-2030,” 3 AM. J. IND. MED. 259, 306 (1982); Pathology of Asbestos-Related Diseases (Victor L. Roggli et al. eds., 2004).
Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace
When asbestos products are used, fibers can be released into the air, which exposes workers in close proximity to the carcinogen. Asbestos dust is so fine that, in most cases, it can only be seen through a microscope. Many workers breathed in asbestos dust for years without knowing it, causing harmful and often deadly consequences. Because of the airborne nature of asbestos dust, workers did not have to be in direct contact with asbestos materials to become exposed. Baron and Budd has represented many clients who developed mesothelioma by merely being present on job sites where asbestos was being used. Furthermore, asbestos fibers were carried off the job site on a worker’s clothes, shoes and hair, and created a cancer hazard at home for a worker’s family.
When asbestos dust is inhaled, or ingested, it has the potential to cause asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma. Asbestos disease has an incubation period that could stretch for decades and is often difficult to detect. Those who suffer from mesothelioma are often unable to detect the disease until it is in the advanced stages and is difficult to treat.
Trades Working with Asbestos
Working with asbestos has placed tradesmen at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma. Here is a partial list of trades likely to have a high number of asbestos disease cases:
- Asbestos workers
- Insulation workers
- Automobile mechanics
- Shipyard workers
- Sailors on seagoing vessels and in dry dock
- Maintenance employees
- Chemical and petroleum workers
- Locomotive repairmen
- Stationary engineers
- Stationary firemen
- Power station operators
- Electric and gas utility workers
- Fabricated plate workers
- Paper mill workers
- Construction contractors
- Concrete workers
- Steel erectors
- Pipe fitters
- Oil field workers
- Steel workers
- Drywall finishers
- Iron workers
- Floor coverers
- Pot tenders
Common Job Sites of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos exposure is particularly heavy at certain job sites. Here is a partial list:
- Chemical plants
- Power plants
- Steel mills
- Manufacturing plants
- Commercial construction sites
- Residential construction sites
- Paper mills
- Oil fields
- Navy shipyards
Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos cancer can be very perplexing to some people who don’t remember ever working in an environment where asbestos was used. Often people will not pursue a mesothelioma lawsuit because they do not know how they could have been exposed. These people often feel that they do not have a case because they cannot remember how or when they were exposed to asbestos. However, since mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos, these people must have had exposure to asbestos at some point. Therefore, they have a right to compensation from the asbestos industry and McDermott & Hickey is here to help.
Many people are surprised to find that their mesothelioma was the cause of second-hand exposure. Workers who handled asbestos products would often carry the microscopic fibers on their hair, shoes and clothes into their household. There have been many cases where a woman was exposed to asbestos by washing her husband’s work clothes. Children were also exposed; even a simple hug with the child’s father after he returned from work could later cause mesothelioma or asbestos cancer in the child.
The Asbestos Industry is to Blame for Your Mesothelioma
McDermott & Hickey LLC has obtained numerous documents from the asbestos industry going back to the early 1900s. For years, the asbestos industry knew that their products were causing cancer, yet they deliberately avoided using words such as “carcinogen” or “cancerous” on the warning labels. Many companies conducted internal health studies where the deadly effects of their products were proven, but chose to hide the results from the public and continued profiting from their asbestos products.
For more than 35 years, McDermott & Hickey LLC has been fighting the asbestos companies that are responsible for causing mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. The mesothelioma law firm has collected a wealth of proof, demonstrating that the asbestos companies were fully aware of the effects that asbestos exposure had on their workers and, therefore, are at fault for their workers’ cancer.
Let the mesothelioma lawyers of McDermott & Hickey LLC help you as you and your family fight back. Give us a call at (877) 303-6379.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is one of the greatest public health threats of our time. Asbestos is a carcinogen that has been used for thousands of years and killed untold numbers of people. The Greeks, Egyptians and Romans all used asbestos in one form or another, and that use continues to this day.
Even though the evidence is overwhelming regarding the health dangers of asbestos, it has not been banned in either the U.S. or Canada – even though dozens of countries worldwide no longer allow its use. Asbestos has been linked to several often-fatal diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and others. Canada is one of the most prolific producers of asbestos, and regularly exports it to China and India.
Asbestos use is in full force in many areas of the world, particularly portions of Africa as well as Southeast Asia – despite the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates more than 40,000 people die of asbestos-related diseases each year. Here are just a few of the other disturbing statistics regarding asbestos exposure as well as diseases caused by the material.
- Approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the U.S. alone, according to the WHO, with another 10,000 diagnosed in Western Europe, Japan and Australia combined.
- According to the WHO, mesothelioma deaths may be severely underreported worldwide. The organization estimates that there could be one fatality not reported for every four or five that are.
- The WHO estimates that 125 million people around the world suffer asbestos exposure each year.
- The largest producers of asbestos are Russia, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan and India, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Types of Asbestos
Scientifically speaking, asbestos is actually a group of six fibrous minerals: chrysotile, amosite, antophyllite, actinolite, tremolite and crocidolite.
Chrysotile Asbestos – This is the most common form of asbestos, accounting for approximately 90 percent of commercial use around the world. It has long, curly fibers that can easily become lodged in the body, even though asbestos supporters argue that it is not as toxic as other kinds of asbestos. Scientific studies, however, have confirmed that chrysotile is just as dangerous and just as hazardous.
Amosite Asbestos – Most experts believe amosite is even more toxic than chrysotile. Amosite is found mostly in South Africa and used most often for construction-related projects. It is usually brown with straight, short fibers.
Antophyllite Asbestos – Among the mostrare forms of asbestos, antophyllite is mined primarily in Finland, although deposits have also been mined in Georgia and North Carolina.
Actinolite Asbestos – Actinolite is typically used to make insulation but it is also found in paint as well as drywall. The fibers of this dark-colored mineral are straight.
Tremolite Asbestos – Tremolite is usually found near chrysotile asbestos. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports tremolite that contaminated a mine in Montana was used in attic insulation in approximately 35 million homes in America.
Crocidolite Asbestos – Crocidolite is not used as much as other types of asbestos because it does not offer as much resistance to heat. It is blue in color and has extremely thin fibers that can easily penetrate human tissue. Experts consider this to be the most dangerous form of the material.
What is Asbestos Used For?
Asbestos is comprised of microscopic fibers that are highly durable as well as fire-resistant. Because it is strong and has a great deal of resistance to heat, it is the material of choice for several products, including textiles, automotive parts, floor tiles, roofing shingles and many, many others.
The construction industry has historically been one of the most voracious consumers of asbestos. It was so prevalent, in fact, that if you live in a home that was built in 1975 or earlier, there is a very good chance it contains the material. That is why it is critically important you have a professional thoroughly check your home from top to bottom to see where asbestos may be found – especially if you are planning any sort of remodeling project. The reason is that if tiny, nearly invisible asbestos fibers are disturbed they can easily be inhaled or even ingested, potentially leading to the development of an extremely serious disease.
Why is Asbestos Hazardous?
When asbestos fibers enter the body they can easily cling to a person’s respiratory system and lodge in areas such as the inner cavities and the lining of major organs such as the lungs, heart and abdomen. These fibers are extremely rigid, and as a result the body has a very hard time breaking them down or eliminating them. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos – anyone who inhales fibers will be at risk of developing one of these potentially fatal respiratory diseases.
Mesothelioma – There is only one known cause of mesothelioma, and that is the ingestion or inhalation of asbestos fibers. This is an almost-always fatal form of cancer that attacks the lining of some of the body’s most important organs – the lungs, abdomen and heart. Mesothelioma kills approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. each year.
Lung Cancer – While mesothelioma is the disease most closely linked to asbestos exposure, lung cancer is responsible for thousands of asbestos-related deaths as well. If someone has been exposed to asbestos fibers and also smokes, that person, according to researchers, is about 90 times more susceptible to lung cancer than someone who neither smokes nor has been subjected to asbestos exposure.
Asbestosis – Asbestosis is not a form of cancer but it is a serious respiratory disease nonetheless. When asbestos fibers are inhaled they can aggravate the lung tissues and lead to scarring. Symptoms include a crackling-type of sound when inhaling as well as shortness of breath. In some instances, asbestosis can lead to cardiac failure. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for asbestosis that has proven to be effective.
Other Cancers Linked to Asbestos – Asbestos use has also been linked to cancers of the kidney, colon, larynx, esophagus and mouth.
There are several factors that often determine how likely someone is to developing an asbestos-related disease. The duration and amount of exposure is one factor. Although, again, there is no safe level of exposure, those who are exposed more frequently are at a higher risk. Age is another important determining factor. The younger a person is when inhaling asbestos, the more likely that person will develop mesothelioma. There are many, many instances of children developing the disease later in life after inhaling fibers brought home on the clothing of parents who worked around asbestos.
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Since asbestos is used in thousands of commercial products, there are hundreds of occupations where workers are at risk of being exposed to the deadly material. Railroad workers, automotive mechanics, construction workers, power plant workers and plumbers are but a few.
Railroad Workers – People involved with rail track laying and equipment maintenance operations often encounter asbestos on the job, as do train engineers and operators. Yardmasters and conductors also suffer asbestos exposure on a regular basis.
Automotive Mechanics – Mechanics are exposed to asbestos when they work on several car components, including heat seals, brakes and many others. When these parts begin to disintegrate, asbestos fibers can quickly escape into the air and either be inhaled or latch onto their clothing.
Construction Workers – Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations – especially when it comes to asbestos exposure. Painters, roofers, drywall installers and tile installers are just some of the professions that carry the highest risks. Others include bricklayers, pipefitters, plumbers, demolition crews and many, many others.
Power Plant Workers – Power plants are full of machinery that generate heat and produce friction, and as a result contain insulation to prevent fires and overheating. Much of this insulation contains asbestos. Other products commonly used in power plants that contain asbestos include gaskets, blocks, plaster and others.
Plumbers – Plumbers commonly encounter asbestos, particularly when they are part of a construction crew that is performing a remodeling project. But plumbers who work on their own are also at risk when they work with thermal insulation, gaskets, valves, joint compounds and other materials.
Asbestos Exposure in the Military
As prevalent as asbestos exposure is in civilian life, it is even a bigger problem in the military. In fact, veterans comprise about 30 percent of all mesothelioma patients in the U.S. Asbestos was used in just about every facet of military life, from the housing in which enlisted personnel stayed to the trucks, ships, planes and tanks they used day after day. In the Navy alone, more than 300 products containing asbestos were used on a regular basis. But no branch of the military was safe – bases around the world were covered with asbestos-laden materials.
The Asbestos Cover-Up
For decades, asbestos manufacturers were well aware that their products were deadly, yet they worked to keep that knowledge from their workers and the general public. Some companies went so far as to order scientific studies of the dangers of asbestos, only to later claim ownership of those studies and keep them from being published. Other manufacturers simply opted to ignore the risks, putting profits ahead of the health of workers and their families.
Evidence exists that shows some asbestos manufacturers knew of the risks going back as far as the late 19th century. In 1918, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported asbestos workers were dying at an unusually high rate. Scientists in 1930 stated asbestos workers faced a definite occupational risk.
Filing an Asbestos Lawsuit
Even though the evidence continued to pile up, asbestos manufacturers pressed on and refused to admit how dangerous the material really was. Finally, workers began to fight back.
The first plaintiff to file a lawsuit against an asbestos manufacturer was Clarence Borel in 1973. Unfortunately, he did not live to see his victory in court. By 2002, approximately 730,000 lawsuits had been filed against about 8,400 asbestos companies. Some experts predict that the number of filings will ultimately exceed 1 million.
As a response to these lawsuits, about 100 companies have filed for bankruptcy protection, establishing asbestos trusts to compensate plaintiffs. The Government Accountability Office reports that the combined value of these trusts is $37 billion.