There have been thousands of injuries to residents of the state of Alabama, as a result of asbestos exposure in the workplace. When workers are exposed to asbestos, the microscopic fibers can become lodged in the lining of the lungs, after being inhaled. These tiny particles can attach to the lining of the lungs, remaining for many years. Eventually, malignant cancerous cells may form in the mesothelium (the protective sac which covers the body’s internal organs, including the lungs). Over time, these tiny asbestos fibers can irritate the lungs, resulting in a disease known as mesothelioma or asbestosis.
Other Diseases Linked to Asbestos Exposure
There are several other cancers which are linked to exposure to asbestos, including lung cancer, breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, larynx cancer, esophageal cancer and rectum cancer. Although reported cases of mesothelioma have increased over the past two decades, it remains a relatively rare cancer.
Mesothelioma can appear in men or women of any age, although it typically strikes men more often, possibly because men are more likely to work in industries where asbestos exposure is more common. A history of asbestos exposure at work is the cause of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases in 70-80 percent of all cases, however there are individuals who have developed the disease with no known exposure to asbestos.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a group of naturally-occurring minerals which manifest as strong, flexible fibers which can be separated into thin threads, then woven. The properties in asbestos were so desired that the U.S. military mandated the use of asbestos in every branch of service. While asbestos definitely made products better, stronger and fire-resistant, it turned out to be highly toxic as well.
Asbestos has been banned in more than 50 countries and its use dramatically restricted in others, however the United States still uses asbestos in many industries. There are many industrial products which use asbestos, and many industries which exposes workers to asbestos—although because the substance is so toxic, safety precautions are supposed to be in place in these industries.
Jobs Which Expose Workers to Asbestos
There are more than 75 different jobs in the United States which have been identified as exposing workers to asbestos, although about 30 percent of all cases of mesothelioma are in military veterans. Other than these veterans, plumbers, pipefitters, electricians and steam fitters are considered most vulnerable to diseases associated with asbestos exposure. The electrical power industry and the shipbuilding industry also have unusually high rates of asbestos-related disease.
Products Containing Asbestos
There remain a number of products in the United States which contain asbestos, primarily the following:
- Gaskets, valves, hood liners, clutches and brake pads;
- Roofing, ceiling and flooring tiles, as well as flooring tile adhesive;
- Some cement building materials, and
- The production of some fabrics, including blankets, fireman suits and rope.
Does the EPA Currently Allow the Use of Asbestos?
The first case of asbestosis was reported in 1907; later mesothelioma and lung cancer were associated with asbestos as well. Despite knowledge of the dangers of asbestos, it was not until 1989 that the EPA issued a ban on most products containing asbestos. This ruling was overturned two years later by a New Orleans court, and currently only flooring felt, rollboard and certain types of papers with asbestos are banned by the EPA.
Asbestos can be used in products so long as it accounts for less than one percent of the product. Homes and apartments built prior to 1980 are likely to be filled with asbestos in the floor tiles, window caulking, fireplaces, furnaces, roofs, plumbing, and appliance. OSHA currently sets limits for acceptable limits of asbestos exposure in the workplace, and those who work with asbestos must wear protective equipment in order to lower exposure to asbestos dust.
According to the World Health Organization, as many as 43,000 people die annually as a result of exposure to asbestos. The latency period can be anywhere from 10 to 50 years between the exposure and the development of an asbestos-related disease. Approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States.
Symptoms and Treatment of Mesothelioma
Those who develop mesothelioma may experience shortness of breath and pain in the chest, as well as weight loss, abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, abnormalities in blood clotting, anemia, and fever. If the cancer spreads beyond the mesothelium, the patient may experience swelling of the face and neck, difficulty swallowing and pain.
Mesothelioma is generally diagnosed via the patient’s medical history, including exposure to asbestos, a physical exam, x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. In some instances, a CAT scan or MRI may also be indicated. A biopsy is necessary to definitively diagnose mesothelioma, and the treatment will depend on how far the disease has progressed. Surgery, radiation or chemotherapy are the usual treatments for mesothelioma, or perhaps a combination of the three.
Getting Legal Help for Your Asbestos-Related Injury
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, it could be extremely important for your future to speak with a knowledgeable mesothelioma attorney. The attorneys of Martinson & Beason, P.C. have the necessary experience in asbestos-related diseases to help you obtain real justice for your injuries. Our attorneys have a wide array of accolades which benefit our clients, including more than fifty five-star Google reviews from highly satisfied clients.
We want to talk to you about your options for recovering the financial compensation necessary to pay for the necessary treatment and long-term care. The statute of limitations associated with Alabama asbestos-related diseases is fairly complex, depending largely on your last exposure to asbestos. Don’t lose the compensation you are entitled to—speak to a Martinson & Beason P.C. attorney today.