Have You Been Exposed to Asbestos?

Schroth & Schroth LLC Jan. 18, 2021

Hundreds of thousands of families across the United States have been affected by illnesses stemming from exposure to asbestos, which has been recognized as one of the largest man-made epidemics in our nation’s history and one that was completely preventable. As far back as the first century, exposure to asbestos was believed to trigger health problems and throughout the 20th century, medical professionals linked the carcinogen to a number of diseases. Despite growing concerns about these potential health risks, many companies in the U.S. failed to warn employees about the dangers associated with asbestos exposure or provide them with the proper protective gear to prevent inhalation of toxic asbestos dust or fibers. Asbestos exposure lawsuits seek to hold employers and asbestos manufacturers legally responsible for mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other injuries allegedly caused by asbestos exposure.

History of Asbestos Use in the U.S.

A natural mineral once valued for its strength, durability, resistance to heat and chemicals, and other desirable physical properties, asbestos was widely used in manufacturing and industry from the late 1800s through the 1980s. The use of asbestos began to be regulated in the 1970s, but the toxic mineral was never banned in the U.S. and asbestos exposure remains an issue today. In fact, despite the serious health risks linked to asbestos exposure, asbestos is still used in many new construction materials, automotive parts and household products, and it may also be present as a contaminant or impurity in popular consumer products, such as talcum powder, children’s toys and certain cosmetics and personal care products. Furthermore, millions of older homes, schools and workplaces are still contaminated with asbestos-containing materials.

Injuries Linked to Asbestos Exposure

When they are disturbed or damaged, asbestos-containing products can release toxic dust or fibers into the air. If these fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can become trapped in the lungs. Over time, these fibers can accumulate and may eventually lead to mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer affecting the thin membrane that lines the lungs, chest and abdomen. In fact, the only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, because the latency period for mesothelioma is 10 to 40 years, someone with mesothelioma may not exhibit symptoms of the disease until decades after the initial asbestos exposure. At this point, the disease is usually in its later stages and life expectancy following diagnosis is typically about one year.

Two other potentially life-threatening and completely preventable diseases linked to asbestos exposure are asbestosis and lung cancer. Asbestosis is a chronic respiratory disease occurring when inhaled asbestos fibers cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs. Similar to mesothelioma, symptoms of asbestosis may not appear until 10 to 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos, which can make it difficult to link the disease to the source of exposure.

People exposed to asbestos at work or in their homes may also be at risk for developing lung cancer. In fact, asbestos exposure is six times more likely to cause lung cancer than mesothelioma and this type of cancer is therefore responsible for the greatest number of asbestos-related deaths.

Possible Sources of Asbestos Exposure

Most cases of asbestos exposure in the United States are related to occupational exposure. In other words, workers who come into direct contact with asbestos on the job, or those who did in the past, may be more likely to develop mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer or another asbestos-related disease. Among the workers at greatest risk for occupational exposure to asbestos are:

  • Miners

  • Textile workers

  • Factory workers

  • Construction workers

  • Workers at asbestos manufacturing companies

  • Workers in asbestos mills

  • Shipyard workers

  • Firefighters

  • Industrial workers

  • Power plant workers

  • Steel mill workers

It is also possible for people to get sick because of secondhand exposure to asbestos – for instance, breathing in asbestos fibers or dust on the clothing of loved ones who work with the toxic mineral – or as a result of exposure to consumer products contaminated with asbestos, such as talcum powder.

Seeking Compensation for Asbestos-Related Injuries

Many Americans experiencing an injury allegedly caused by asbestos exposure seek compensation by filing a legal claim against the person, company or entity responsible for their exposure. Depending on the source of exposure, the liable party may be a mining company, a manufacturer of asbestos-containing products, an employer who uses asbestos-containing products or any other person or company responsible for your asbestos exposure. The two main types of asbestos exposure lawsuits are personal injury and wrongful death claims. These claims are being filed on behalf of people who developed mesothelioma, lung cancer or another serious medical condition after being exposed to asbestos on the job and the loved ones of those who died from an asbestos-related disease. Asbestos exposure cases may also be handled as class action lawsuits or through a multidistrict litigation (MDL).