Asbestos, Mesothelioma, and the Ongoing Risks for Texas Workers

Asbestos has been used virtually everywhere in America. It is a mineral that exists naturally in a fibrous form and is resistant to heat, water, chemicals, and electricity. For almost 150 years, asbestos has been a vital element in thousands of construction, commercial, and consumer products.

The History of Asbestos – and its Associated Diseases – in the U.S.

From World War II on, asbestos-containing material (ACM) has been used in many industries:

  • Building and construction applications find it being used to strengthen cement and plastics and as insulation, in roofing, fireproofing and sound absorption. It is still found in many brands of floor tiles, paints, spray-on coatings, adhesives, and plastics.
  • Until the late 1970s, shipbuilders used ACM to insulate boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes.
  • The automotive industry still uses ACM in manufactured vehicle brake shoe and clutch pad products.

Prolonged exposure to products that contain asbestos puts your health at risk of contracting dangerous diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

  • The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry tells us that an estimated 27 million workers were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1979. And though certain government regulations have reduced the risk of exposure in the workplace, there remains a certain degree of risk for many workers, especially if safety measures to protect them are not being utilized, and may not have been for many years.
  • According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, asbestos exposure to workers above the Center for Disease Control’s recommended limit declined from 6.3% during the survey period of 1987 to 1994 to a still noteworthy 4.3% in the survey of 2000 to 2003.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) didn’t begin regulating workplace asbestos exposure until 1971. From that year through the end of the 20th century, OSHA was able to gradually reduce allowable asbestos levels. This progress was significantly slowed by industries that used asbestos, other corporate interests, and their lobbyists.

Nevertheless, OSHA’s actions helped lower the risks of workers’ developing diseases related to ACM exposure, such as mesothelioma; but the consequences of less-than-effective regulation over the years are still felt in the numbers of mesothelioma cases reported today. This is because it can take decades for asbestos-related diseases to develop.

Asbestos Dangers in Texas

Most Texans who suffer from asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma are/were exposed to asbestos on the job, in places such as oil refineries, steel mills and foundries, chemical plants, automobile factories, and a wide range of petro-chemical industry job sites, to name a few. A quick look at the list shows that virtually all of these types of workplaces can be found somewhere within the Greater Houston Area.

The many thousands of Texas workers who still suffer from these diseases notwithstanding, from 1999 to 2013, the following mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths were recorded by our Department of State Health Services: 1,913 Mesothelioma deaths and 541 Asbestosis deaths, for a total of 2,454.

Texas workers who run the greatest danger of developing ACM-exposure diseases these days include:

  • Asbestos abatement workers
  • Demolition workers
  • Automobile mechanics and brake repairers
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technicians
  • Masons
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Laborers
  • Floor maintenance workers
  • Building inspectors

<h2″>How Asbestos Enters and Leaves the Body

Inhaling asbestos-containing air into the lungs is the primary avenue of entry into the body, and the route of greatest concern to those in healthcare. Some asbestos fibers which reach the lungs are exhaled normally. Others are coughed from the lungs in the form of mucus. But fibers that reach the deepest airways of the lungs become trapped and cause the most damage. This happens over a period of many years, as the degenerative effects of ACM accumulate very slowly.

Asbestos can also be ingested when mucus cleared from the lungs and nasal passages is swallowed or by drinking contaminated liquids. A small number of asbestos fibers may penetrate the cells lining the digestive system, but only a few will reach the bloodstream. These fibers are then released in the urine. Asbestos fibers rarely pass through the skin into the body. A small number of people develop kidney, bladder, or colorectal diseases that are asbestos-related, but the odds are quite remote.

Diseases Associated with Asbestos Exposure

The following asbestos-related diseases can take 20 to 50 years to develop after consistent exposure to ACMs begins.

Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a signature type of cancer that impacts the cells that line the chest or the abdominal cavities. Symptoms of mesothelioma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Blood system abnormalities

Asbestosis is a chronic, fibrotic lung disease that results from the long-term inhalation of respirable asbestos fibers. Symptoms of asbestosis include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
  • Recurrent respiratory infections

Lung cancer is a malignant tumor that affects the tissues and passages of the respiratory system. Cigarette smoking combined with exposure to asbestos greatly increases the chances that a person will get lung cancer. Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent chest pain

If you have a history of asbestos exposure and are experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should see your family doctor immediately. He or she can then determine whether to do additional testing and/or refer you to a pulmonologist, who potentially may want to do a biopsy to make a formal diagnosis. Though there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, the sooner you begin treatment, the better the odds of effectively managing the disease.

Compensation for Asbestos-Related Diseases

Workers who discover they have any asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma, may be eligible to receive compensation for themselves and their families from manufacturers who made asbestos products. Some of them have already established court-ordered asbestos trust funds. Others handle legal claims individually, which are either settled out-of-court or in civil trials.

Workers who develop an asbestos-related illness should retain a seasoned mesothelioma lawyer to guide them through the legal process and effectively represent their interests in order to secure fair compensation.

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos or diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or an asbestos-related cancer, contact Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law to schedule a free consultation.