The ongoing epidemic of Asbestos related disease diagnosis in the United States is expected to continue well into the 21st century.
Update: J&J Ordered to Pay $37 Million in Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Lawsuit
April 6, 2018 – A New Jersey state jury has ruled against J&J and one of its talc suppliers, Imery Talc America, Inc., in a lawsuit filed by a man with mesothelioma, awarding him $37 million in compensatory damages after determining that his use of talcum powder caused the cancer.
Currently, there are approximately 3,000 new cases of Asbestos related diseases diagnosed per year. According to the National Cancer Institute, the development of Asbestos cancer can occur 20 or sometimes even 40 years after the initial exposure to the dangerous Asbestos fibers.
What are the diseases associated with exposure to Asbestos?
There are several different kinds of diseases that are related to exposure to asbestos fibers. They can be categorized in the following ways:
- Cancerous: Some diseases are malignant (or cancerous), such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
- Non-Cancerous: Others are benign (non-malignant or non-cancerous), such as asbestosis, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural fibrosis, and benign pleural effusions.
Our Experience – Asbestos Litigation & Exposure Lawsuits
Why You Should Choose Schmidt & Clark, LLP
“Our law firm has substantial expertise in the highly specialized field of occupational Asbestos exposure litigation.”
There are many law firms in the United States that advertise their legal services for Asbestos lawsuits, however most of these law firms do not actually litigate them. You can contact our law firm with confidence in knowing that we have earned the nationwide respect and recognition from our peers for the successful representation of Asbestos exposure clients and their families.
If you or a loved one have been exposed to Asbestos and developed a form of Asbestos related cancer or other related disease, you should contact us immediately. You may be entitled to compensation and we can help.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring minerals that have been used as ingredients in manufacturing products since the late 1800’s. Asbestos deposits have been mined extensively in Canada, South Africa, Australia, Russia and the United States. Once the asbestos is mined and/or used in the manufacturing process, tiny fibers are created. The fibers cause disease when breathed into the lungs.
There are several different types of asbestos. The following is a list of the different types of asbestos:
Of these six, the three most commonly used are chrysotile (white), amosite (brown/off-white) and crocidolite (blue).
All types of asbestos tend to break into very tiny fibers. These individual fibers are so small that many must be identified using a microscope. Because asbestos fibers are so small, once released into the air, they may stay suspended there for days.
Asbestos fibers are also virtually indestructible. They are highly resistant to chemicals and heat. Asbestos fibers are durable, flexible, strong and resistant to wear. Because asbestos has so many useful properties, it has been used in over 3,000 different products.
Usually the asbestos fibers are mixed with other materials to form a product. The asbestos fibers often served as a binder to keep the other materials in the product intact. Depending on the product, the amount of asbestos in asbestos-containing materials varied from 1%-100% by weight.
A Brief History of Asbestos
Unlike many of its doomed chemical contemporaries, asbestos is not a product of modern technology. Its use predates history, and the recognition of health hazards associated with asbestos is recorded in writings from the first century.
Asbestos has been used for more than 2,000 years. It was named by the Ancient Greeks, its name meaning “inextinguishable.” The Greeks used asbestos for the wicks of the eternal flames of the vestal virgins, as the funeral dress for the cremation of kings, and as napkins.
Asbestos was used marginally through the 1700s, but did not become popular until the Industrial Revolution during the late 1800s. It then began to be used as insulation for steam pipes, turbines, boilers, kilns, ovens, and other high-temperature products. Ancient observations of the health risks of asbestos were either forgotten or ignored.
At the turn of the twentieth century, researchers began to notice a large number of deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns. In the 1930s major medical journals began to publish articles that linked asbestos to cancer. Despite the fact that many materials, such as fiberglass insulation, were created to replace asbestos, companies that used asbestos ignored the safer alternatives. The conduct of the asbestos companies is especially egregious, however, because the victims were largely exploited workers who were unaware of the serious health risks they were exposed to on a daily basis.
When the use of asbestos was at its highest – probably in the 1940s to the early 1970s – an estimated 3,000 products made use of its unique properties. You could find asbestos in hair dryers, irons and ironing board covers, toasters, coffee pots, and electric blankets. Because asbestos is also found in vermiculite or talc, trace amounts could also be detected in cosmetics and powders, as well as in fertilizer and potting soils.
Use of asbestos stabilized after 1976 (the year of peak production), decreasing only in the late 1980s as its associated health risks became a matter of increasing public concern. Although in the USA the last domestic mine closed in 2002, asbestos is still imported here (6000 metric tons in 2003), mostly from Canada. Asbestos (predominantly chrysotile) is still widely mined outside the USA, especially in Russia (39%), Canada (18%), China (14%), Brazil (9%), Kazakhstan (7%), and Zimbabwe (6%).
What was Asbestos used for?
Asbestos is a natural mineral that was mined by itself or within other ores extensively up until its federal ban in 1980. Many everyday products contained asbestos because of its insulation qualities. However, its uses were not just limited to insulation itself and could be found in anything from clothing to roofing shingles.
The term “asbestos” refers to a number of naturally occurring mineral fibers. These fibers are strong, durable, poor conductors of electricity and are heat resistant. Because of these properties, they have been used since 1880 in more than 3500 products including:
- Friction products such as railroad and automotive brakes and clutches
- Fireproofing and acoustical texturing products
- Gaskets and packing products
- Textiles and clothing
- Vermiculite products
- Packing, taping and spackling products
- Building materials such as siding, roofing, wallboard and tiles
Many asbestos containing products have been pulled from the market, but not in time to prevent thousands of deaths from exposure. If you’re concerned that you may have been exposed to asbestos, contact your physician right away. For more information on specific products, ask Schmidt & Clark, LLP.
How Does Asbestos Exposure Occur?
Asbestos exposure occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled. If an asbestos-containing product is left intact, then exposure to the asbestos fiber is less likely. However, if that asbestos-containing product is cut, sawed, mixed, drilled, buffed, vibrated, sanded or otherwise disturbed, this causes asbestos fibers to be released into the air. Because individual asbestos fibers are so tiny that they can only be seen with a microscope, they are very lightweight and stay in the air for a long time.
Friable asbestos is especially dangerous. The term friable means that the asbestos crumbles easily, releasing asbestos fibers into the breathable air. An example of friable asbestos is acoustical ceiling and wall spray.
Once inhaled, the asbestos fibers can cause many respiratory problems, including the development of mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers are very strong – too strong for the human body to break down.
Asbestos fibers can also be swallowed, lodging themselves in the digestive tract. This may also lead to disease.
Usually it takes at least 15 years from the time a person is exposed to asbestos until they develop mesothelioma. This is called the latent period.
Which Professions are Affected by Asbestos Exposure?
Though the government now heavily regulates worksites where asbestos is present, many asbestos companies fail to take the necessary steps to protect their employees from asbestos inhalation. Because of this, the threat of asbestos cancer remains a serious concern among many occupations.
Because low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil, everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during their life. In most cases, however, people do not develop illnesses from their exposure. Asbestos diseases, such as asbestosis or pleural plaques – or even the more fatal forms of asbestos cancer such as lung cancer or mesothelioma – usually occur in people who work directly with the material or who are exposed to it on a regular, prolonged, or substantial basis.
What follows are some of the occupations of individuals who are exposed to high levels of asbestos on a daily basis and may be at risk for developing mesothelioma cancer:
- Pipe Fitters
- Shipyard workers
- Power plant workers
- Demolition workers
- Railroad workers
- Steel mills workers
- Plumbers, maintenance workers
- Drywallers, plasterers, painters
- School teachers
In addition to people who worked with asbestos either directly or indirectly, workers’ families and other household contacts were also at risk in the past. Before strict industrial hygiene rules were put in place, asbestos workers went home covered in asbestos dust; family and household members were then exposed via inhalation of the dust from workers’ skin, hair, and clothing, and during laundering of contaminated work clothes. Studies have shown increased rates of asbestos-related illnesses and deaths in the household contacts of asbestos workers.
Exposure at Reynolds Aluminum Plant
Workers at the Reynolds Aluminum plant were at daily risk of exposure to asbestos and other toxic substances like cyanide. This was especially true before the 1970s, when the dangers became better understood and workers began to wear adequate protection and receive warnings.
Reynolds Metals Company (RMC) was the second largest aluminum company in the United States, and the third largest in the world. The company became well-known for the consumer product Reynolds Wrap as well as being a leader in developing and promoting new uses for aluminum; its RV Aluminaut submarine was operated byReynolds Marine Services. Headquartered for most of its existence in Richmond, Virginia, it was acquired by Alcoa in June 2000. It was acquired by Graeme Hart, New Zealand businessman in 2008 – named Reynolds Packaging Group, now a private company again.
Aluminum smelters, like the Reynolds Plant and many others that were located throughout the Pacific Northwest, made wide use of asbestos, recognized for decades for its ability to insulate and resist fire. Asbestos was used in the carbon bake furnaces, on the potlines, and in the casthouse as well.
Employees who worked with extremely hot materials had to be protected from life-threatening accidents. They wore asbestos gloves and aprons while pouring liquid aluminum alloys that measured up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in order to keep their hands from blistering and to avoid injury from spills. Others wore asbestos coats, and asbestos masks were used as well, meaning that workers wore the hazardous material on their faces, making it especially easy to inhale dangerous fibers.
Over the years, many Reynolds Aluminum Plant employees have been screened for asbestos-related illness and the numbers affected have been alarmingly high, according to several reports. Many of the sickened had toiled at the plant for decades, unaware that they were exposed to such a high level of dangerous asbestos fibers for such a long time.
Asbestos-related pleural disease is a common condition caused by asbestos exposure. Pleural disease consists of “plaques” on or thickening of the lining of the lung. Like asbestosis and other forms of asbestos-related diseases, pleural disease is a latent condition, meaning that it usually does not develop until several years after a person’s initial exposure to asbestos.
Pleural disease involves scarring of the lining of the lung indicating that an individual has had lung damage sufficient to be at risk for more serious complications. This condition is not cancerous. However, plaque or thickening impairs lung function, restricting breathing capacity. Usually there are bilateral asbestos markers in the lungs that come from exposure. This is significant in that it is an indication the individual is at a greater risk than the general population of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma.
There are different degrees of pleural disease. If the scarring spreads to the chest wall, it is considered pleural thickening, which may cause shortness of breath. Over time, the scarred lining can expand, blocking the lungs and making it hard to breath.
If the scarring is more centralized, it is called pleural plaques. While pleural plaques don’t typically have symptoms, the scarred area can grow and become hard and calcified causing breathing complications and lung impairment.
In more rare cases, pleural scarring can cause a part of the lung to fold over, resulting in severe pain and discomfort. This is called atelectasis. While asbestos-related pleural disease is not malignant, those who develop the condition are more susceptible to serious asbestos illnesses such as asbestosis.
Asbestos in Automobiles
Along with virtually every other product of the Industrial Age, asbestos made its way into many parts and components of the personal automobile. Since the automobile industry got its start in the late 1890s, asbestos has been used in a variety of automobile parts & accessories.
For many decades, asbestos has been used by the automotive industry in brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and gaskets. Millions of these products still remain on vehicles currently in use today, which poses a severe risk of asbestos exposure to current and former auto mechanics across the country.
Although attempts have been made to ban, or at least regulate asbestos in automotive and other products, these efforts have been only partially successful. Because of the massive outsourcing of American manufacturing over the past 30 years to countries with little or no safety regulations, automotive parts containing significant amounts of asbestos continue to enter the country. Older vehicles, particularly those built prior to the 1980s, are likely to have many asbestos-containing components as well.
The asbestos and corporate industries were aware of the health hazards involved with asbestos, but continued the widespread manufacturing of the substance anyways. Millions of people have been wrongfully exposed for financial gain. The amount of incidents in relation to the asbestos scandal has lead to mesothelioma lawyers protecting victims’ rights by helping them file lawsuits against the companies responsible for their illness.
The EPA has set further standards in working with asbestos and avoiding automobile exposure. By following their listed practices, car owners and mechanics can substantially minimize the chances of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Stomach Cancer
Asbestos may cause stomach cancer when asbestos fibers ingested through the mouth are swallowed and lodge in the stomach, eventually causing the disease.
Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is a malignant tumor arising from the lining of the stomach. According to the American Cancer Society, there was 21,130 new cases and 10, 620 deaths from gastric cancer in the United States in 2009.
Stomach cancers are classified according to the type of tissue where they originate. The most common type of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma, which starts in the glandular tissue of the stomach and accounts for 90% to 95% of all stomach cancers. Other forms of stomach cancer include lymphomas, which involve the lymphatic system and sarcomas, which involve the connective tissue (such as muscle, fat, or blood vessels).
Though mesothelioma and lung cancer are more commonly related to asbestos exposure, gastrointestinal cancer has also been connected to asbestos. Although a causal relationship between exposure to asbestos and the development of gastrointestinal cancers has not been confirmed, many experts agree that exposure to asbestos has shown a strong link to the development of such cancers.
Unfortunately, gastrointestinal cancer may show no symptoms in early stages, which makes it difficult to detect. If the cancer spreads to the liver, an afflicted person may experience a flushing of the neck, diarrhea and stomach ailments, shortness of breath, or wheezing. Those who suspect they may have been exposed to asbestos should contact a physician and an experienced mesothelioma lawyer, as these professionals can help asbestos victims seek proper treatment and compensation for undue illness.
Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards
For years, shipbuilders worked in poorly ventilated areas. Unaware of the dangers of asbestos, they used little or no protection from the harmful particles in the air. Years later, medical studies show that 86% of workers with 20 or more years of shipbuilding experience suffer from an asbestos-related disease.
Shipyard workers who served between World War II and the Korean War were very likely exposed to asbestos. The material was ideal for use in shipbuilding because of its ability to resist corrosion and high temperatures. It has been used as insulation for boilers, incinerators, hot water pipes and steam pipes. The asbestos dust tended to build up around these areas and other inadequately ventilated parts of the ship, which led to human exposure aboard vessels.
Navy veterans who worked below deck on naval warships or submarines were also likely to develop mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. They worked (and sometimes lived) in extremely tight quarters with dangerously high levels of asbestos dust lingering in the air. Poor ventilation systems prevented adequate air exchange and resulted in highly concentrated levels of asbestos to remain in the air for Navy personnel to breathe in. Unfortunately, because Navy veterans and shipyard workers carried the asbestos dust and fibers home on their clothes it is not uncommon for loved ones, particularly those responsible for handling the laundry, to also find that they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
In 1984, a medical survey of shipyard workers at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA, showed that 79 percent of these workers exhibited signs of lung abnormalities consistent with asbestos exposure, while x-rays given to 90 wives of workers revealed 8 to 9 percent showed similar abnormalities.
How Can I Protect Myself from Asbestos Exposure?
If you work in an area where you are exposed to asbestos particles, you should use all protective gear and equipment provided by your employers and follow recommended workplace practices and safety procedures. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established regulations dealing with asbestos exposure on the job, specifically in construction work, shipyards and general industry that employers are required to follow at all times.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a component of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and is the Federal agency responsible for health and safety regulations in maritime, construction, manufacturing, and service workplaces. OSHA established regulations dealing with asbestos exposure on the job, specifically in construction work, shipyards, and general industry, that employers are required to follow. In addition, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), another component of the DOL, enforces regulations related to mine safety. Workers should use all protective equipment provided by their employers and follow recommended workplace practices and safety procedures. For example, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved respirators that fit properly should be worn by workers when required.
Workers who are concerned about asbestos exposure in the workplace should discuss the situation with other employees, their employee health and safety representative, and their employers. If necessary, OSHA can provide more information or make an inspection. Regional offices of OSHA are listed in the “United States Government” section of a telephone directory’s blue pages (under “Department of Labor”).
Navy Blamed for Veteran’s Asbestos Exposure
June 28, 2010 – The United States Navy was recently allocated a share of fault for a veteran’s asbestos exposure in a California appeals court ruling.
Blame can be placed on the U.S. Navy for asbestos exposure, a California appeals court ruled earlier this month.
Ulysses Collins died of malignant mesothelioma in 2005. Collins had a 31-year history working in naval shipyards where he experienced exposure to asbestos on a regular basis. In an earlier ruling, the jury awarded Collins more than $10 million in damages and allocated 20 percent of the shared fault to Plant Insulation Company. A total of 17 entities shared the fault with Plant, but the Plant Insulation Company was the only entity to appeal the exclusion of the Navy from the list of responsible parties.
The court wrote the Navy is “immune from liability” in the case because of an exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act that bars actions based on the federal government’s alleged negligence in using asbestos on ships.
Do I have an Asbestos Lawsuit?
The Toxic Tort Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus exclusively on the representation of plaintiffs in Asbestos lawsuits. We are handling individual and group litigation nationwide and currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one have been exposed to Asbestos and developed a form of Asbestos related cancer or other related disease, you should contact us immediately. You may be entitled to compensation and we can help.