Asbestos is a fibrous mineral long considered as a good insulator against heat and flame. In the 1800s, it was also found to resist electricity, and an industry was born. Asbestos was readily available and cheap to mine, so it was the go-to material to insulate against heat and electric current. Shaped into protective fabric mats, asbestos insulation was standard material in buildings, electric circuitry, industrial furnaces and boilers, hot-water heaters, shipbuilding, and thousands of other functions.
When the mineral is roughly handled, it sheds tiny fibrous crystals—some small enough to form an invisible dust. When this dust is inhaled, it has serious damaging effects on the human body. By the 1930s, the dangers of asbestos were widely understood by scientists and doctors, who tried to warn people, but it was several decades later before laws banned its use in new construction.
By the 1970s, experts also found that removing asbestos already in place in schools, homes, and factories caused the toxic fiber dust to contaminate the buildings, complicating removal efforts.
What Are the Health Hazards Associated With Asbestos?
It’s estimated that about one in every five people exposed to asbestos will develop a disease related to that exposure. Contact with asbestos or inhaling the mineral fibers can lead to very serious ailments.
Mesothelioma is the asbestos-related lung illness that draws the most attention today. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can pass through the lungs and embed in organs or the walls of the chest cavity. Through a mechanism that is still not perfectly understood, these fibers can trigger uncontrolled cell growth: cancer. This type of cancer is called mesothelioma. Symptoms of mesothelioma may include breathing difficulties, abdominal swelling, fatigue, pain, and weight loss. In the United States, doctors diagnose about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It may take years, even decades, after exposure for symptoms of mesothelioma to develop. In some cases, the exposure to asbestos may not be direct. For instance, a person who works in an asbestos-contaminated building may bring home invisible asbestos fibers on his clothing, and his wife may develop symptoms of mesothelioma 20 years later due to exposure while laundering those clothes.
There are no cures for mesothelioma or other asbestos-related lung conditions. In individual cases, some treatments may be able to relieve symptoms. The prognosis for patients living with mesothelioma depends on the stage—the extent of development—of the cancer and many other factors, but long-term survival rates are currently low.
What to Do Next If You're Diagnosed With Mesothelioma
If you have developed mesothelioma, you're facing a medical and personal crisis. Day by day, the bills for medical care pile up, but your symptoms may make it impossible for you to hold down a job. Your financial predicament puts more stress on your family in this already stressful time.
As noted earlier, the first evidence of health complications from asbestos emerged nearly a century ago. Even if you were exposed to asbestos 40 or 50 years ago, the person, organization, or business that owned the place where exposure occurred should have known about the risks to visitors and should have taken better precautions to protect you. That person, business, or organization may be held legally responsible for the harm you are suffering today.
The specific facts of your case determine whether you have a valid legal claim. You may be eligible to have your medical expenses paid and to recover the income your can no longer earn. The toxic tort lawyers at Lattof & Lattof Attorneys would like to offer you a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case. Since the 1970s, our firm (and its predecessors) has worked on thousands of asbestos legal claims for clients across the United States. We never charge a fee until our client gets a settlement or damage award.