When you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is an overwhelming and devastating experience. Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and incurable type of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. It has been estimated by the U.S. Department of Labor that approximately 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry have faced significant asbestos exposure at some point while on the job. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
What is Asbestos?
The term "asbestos" refers to a number of naturally occurring mineral fibers. These fibers are strong, durable, poor conductors of electricity, and heat resistant. Because of these properties, asbestos was widely used in manufacturing and construction through the mid 1970's. Although the use of asbestos was first regulated in the 1970s by the U.S. government, its use continued in asbestos cement products, automotive brakes and gaskets into the 1990's.
Asbestos has also been used in consumer products such as baby powder and cigarette filters, and in the manufacturing process of electrical appliances such as hair dryers, crock pots, toasters, coffee pots, baby powder and popcorn poppers.
Most victims of asbestos exposure are industrial and construction workers, but asbestos fibers from workers' clothing have affected their family members as well. Children and spouses of industrial workers have developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure in the household.
Mesothelioma and Other Life-Threatening Illnesses
Exposure to asbestos can lead to the following life-threatening health conditions:
Asbestosis occurs when one inhales asbestos fibers that become trapped inside the lungs. After inhalation, the body will produce an acid in an attempt to dissolve these fibers, which may cause scarring around the surrounding lung tissue. Eventually, this scarring can become so severe that it will disrupt lung function. The latency period for developing asbestosis is estimated at 25 to 40 years.
Lung Cancer is an illness characterized by uncontrolled growth in the lung tissue. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, coughing, and weight loss. Smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer in people who have been exposed to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium--the lining around the heart, chest, lungs, and abdomen that protects the organs and produces fluid to cushion them as they function. Mesothelioma tumors occur in the thin membranes that line the lungs, abdomen or heart. A diagnosis of mesothelioma is very serious. Each year approximately 3000 people in the United States are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The three most common types of mesothelioma are:
Pleural Mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the lung. This is the most common form and is usually caused from breathing in asbestos fibers. It causes fluid and tumors in the lungs and/or and chest that restrict, and in advanced stages, cut off breathing. Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma include shortness of breath; weight loss; hoarse voice; hard time swallowing; coughing up blood; chest pain or pain in the upper abdomen, shoulder or arm; fever; and pleural effusion, which is a buildup of fluid in the lungs or chest.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity. This type is typically caused from swallowing asbestos fibers, but can also result from lymph nodes circulating the fibers to the area. Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma often include a feeling of discomfort or a mass or swelling in the abdomen; weight loss; fever; bowel obstruction and blood clots.
Pericardial Mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the heart. This is the rarest form and can be caused from breathing or swallowing asbestos fibers which the lymph nodes circulate to the area. Pericardial Mesothelioma restricts the movement of the heart and patients experience the shortest life expectancy with this type. Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma include chest pain or a "tight" feeling near the heart; persistent cough; weight loss; fever; and/or an irregular breathing pattern or heartbeat, especially during exercise or exertion.
Who Has Been Exposed?
Health risks from asbestos increase with longer and heavier exposure. Below are the industries most associated with asbestos-related illnesses:
- Military - asbestos was used throughout all branches of the military, but was most prevalent on ships.
- Construction - asbestos was extensively used in construction, from ceiling and floor tiles to joint compounds and cements. This includes demolition workers, drywall removers, and do-it-yourself enthusiasts.
- Commercial and Industrial Sites - including power plants, steel mills, chemical plants, and oil refineries.
- Shipbuilding - asbestos was an ideal material for the shipbuilding industry, used everywhere from boilers to galleys.
- Mining and Milling - U.S. consumption of asbestos peaked in 1973, with hundreds of mining operations throughout the country. One mine continued operation until 2002.
- Auto Repair - auto mechanics are exposed to asbestos through brake repair.
Workers who were heavily exposed to asbestos often brought home the asbestos dust on their clothing, skin, shoes and hair. Because of this, their families face an increased risk of mesothelioma. This is known as second-hand, or at-home exposure to asbestos.
Our team of asbestos exposure attorneys has a vast database of companies, products, occupations and sites that used asbestos. We will find the source of your exposure for you, so you can focus on your health.
Contact an Experienced Asbestos Exposure Attorney
Many people with Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers mistakenly believe that the asbestos companies did not know their products caused cancer until it became newsworthy in the 1970's. In fact, there is evidence that manufacturers of asbestos products knew as early as the 1930's that workers were at risk for lung cancer and mesothelioma from asbestos exposure.
With over four decades of experience, the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has extensive knowledge about many types of toxic substance cases, especially asbestos exposure. Our attorneys work to ensure that you receive the best representation and the largest settlement possible. If you or a loved one has suffered from asbestos exposure, contact us today. We will provide you with a free no-obligation consultation and explain your legal rights.
National Cancer Institute: Mesothelioma
Visit this link on the National Cancer Institute's website to learn more about mesothelioma. The National Cancer Institute is part of the United States federal government National Institutes of Health.
National Cancer Institute: Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk
Visit this link on the National Cancer Institute's website to learn more about asbestos exposure and cancer risk. The National Cancer Institute is part of the United States federal government National Institutes of Health.