If you’ve been exposed to asbestos and suffer from mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to compensation, possibly from a trust fund earmarked to pay your damages without having to go to court. The Houston asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers at the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant are at your service to help you.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes asbestos as a mineral fiber which is still used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. Asbestos kills between 12,000 and 15,000 each year in the U.S. Between 25% and 33% of that number is attributed directly to mesothelioma.
Asbestos has been mined and used commercially for well over a century, but its use dramatically increased during World War II. Since then, asbestos-containing materials (ACM) have been used in many industries, such as the following:
- Building and construction have used it to strengthen cement and plastics; as insulation; and for roofing, fireproofing, and sound absorption. The mineral has also been used in ceiling and floor tiles, paints, spray-on coatings, adhesives, and plastics.
- Shipbuilders used asbestos to insulate boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes.
- The automotive industry still incorporates asbestos into vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads.
- The mineral is found in vermiculite-containing garden products, and other ACMs are used in talc-based products.
The Health Hazards of Asbestos Exposure
People are most often affected in the workplace, where tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. When breathed in, they become trapped in the lungs and can remain there for years. Over time – since workers are typically exposed to the asbestos daily – the fibers eventually overwhelm the lungs. The resulting scarring and inflammation degrades the victim’s ability to breathe and leads to serious health problems.
For over 60 years, asbestos has been known to be a human carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Enough evidence has been gathered to clearly establish that asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma (a cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen), as well as cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries. Growing evidence also links asbestos exposure to higher risks of stomach, pharynx, and colorectal cancers.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma-Related Symptoms
Mesothelioma, an insidious cancer that occurs to a great many exposed to ACMs, is difficult to diagnose because it mimics other respiratory illnesses. This is due to the disease’s long incubation period. It can take 30 to 50 years (or thousands of work days) from first exposure until the disease is detected. Many don’t get sick until after they retire.
Mesothelioma is incurable, but the earlier the diagnosis, the more patient treatment options there are. Mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Chest pain and persistent cough
- Shortness of breath and painful breathing
- Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
- Fluid accumulation in the protective pleural membranes that surround the lungs
- General fatigue
If you have a history of asbestos exposure and are experiencing any of these symptoms, your primary care doctor may refer to you to an experienced pulmonologist for further testing, and potentially a biopsy, to know for sure.
Sources of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos has high fiber strength and is heat resistant. This durability and aversion to heat made it a popular element for a variety of manufactured goods. The EPA cites the following most prominent environmental sources of asbestos-induced cancers:
- Industries where people mine or manufacture asbestos products
- Construction sites (particularly building, demolition, and renovation activities)
- Automotive brake and clutch repair work outfits
- Deteriorating, damaged, or disturbed asbestos-containing products, such as insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials, and floor tiles, and old buildings which contain these ACMs.
People working (or living) around these sites can also suffer from exposure to asbestos when the products containing the element were disturbed due to renovation or removal or the normal release of asbestos fibers into the air; the fibers then can be carried by the wind to adjacent areas, and subsequently inhaled.
Getting Rid of Asbestos – an Uphill Battle
Curiously (and shockingly), despite clear and present evidence of its dangers over the past almost 60 years, mesothelioma-causing asbestos is still not universally banned in the U.S. Many such products have been outlawed. But large amounts of raw asbestos and ACMs are still imported every year. Federal legislation to universally ban asbestos remains largely blocked by the asbestos industry, other corporate interests, and their lobbyists. So instead of universal legislation, various federal agencies have targeted narrower aspects of the industry, with a bit more success.
- In the late 1970s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of asbestos in wallboard patching compounds and gas fireplaces.
- In 1989, the EPA banned all new uses of asbestos and required school systems to inspect buildings for damaged asbestos and eliminate or reduce asbestos exposure to a building’s occupants by removing or encasing the element.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, it’s important to know your legal compensation rights, and avenues. The asbestos attorneys of the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant know mesothelioma and how to seek legal recourse for your or a loved one’s injuries. Call us today or fill out a FREE initial consultation form to quickly arrange an appointment with our Texas asbestos attorneys who will fight for you.