Federal laws that regulate the use and manufacturing of asbestos are designed to protect workers and their families form extreme exposure to the harmful mineral. These laws were put in place in 1979, decades after the mining, manufacturing, and distribution of asbestos became a global industry. However, there is an extraordinary amount of time between initial contact with asbestos and the diagnosis of related illnesses, which include mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Because of the extreme latency period, deaths and diagnosis’s associated with asbestos exposure are still on the rise. If you suspect exposure to asbestos or are the victim of a related illness, contact a mesothelioma attorney today for a free legal consultation.
Between the late 1970s and mid 1990s, mesothelioma cases increased in abundance. In 1999, the most recent year for which data is available, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examined occupational and industry data for 541 of the 2,484 malignant mesothelioma deaths for individuals aged 15 and over. Records indicate the top five industries associated with mesothelioma deaths as, in order of most deaths to least: construction, industrial and miscellaneous chemicals, electric light and power, ship and boat building, and petroleum refining. Data records of mesothelioma deaths by occupation, in the same order, are: Plumbers, pipefitter, and steamfits, elementary school teachers, electricians, and mechanical engineers.
Every one of the above industries and occupations corresponds to known sites of high asbestos use, and the relationship between number of deaths and intensity/duration of asbestos exposure is paralleled. Other occupations frequently associated with malignant mesothelioma deaths include: janitors and cleaners, truck drivers, managers and administrators, homemakers, supervisors and proprietors, sales occupations, farmers (except horticulture), and supervisors in production occupations.
Over the decades, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency have taken various regulatory actions to control occupational exposure to asbestos. OSHA established a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for asbestos in 1971 at 12 fibers per cubic cm. The PEL has decreased many times since then, and is now set at 0.1 fibers per cubic cm.
A troubling 2003 OSHA air sampling report indicates that 20% of air samples collected in the construction industry exceeded the PEL. Construction workers are subject to asbestos exposure because of the immensity of asbestos-containing materials used in the building of commercial and residential buildings. In this industry, asbestos is found in installed products such as sprayed-on fireproofing, pipe insulation, floor tiles, cement pipe and sheet, roofing felts and shingles, ceiling tiles, fire-resistant drywall, and acoustical products. Today, exposure occurs during the removal or renovation of asbestos-containing materials, and an estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry workers potentially are being exposed to asbestos.
Although asbestos has been eliminated in the manufacture of many products,
it is still being imported (approximately 1,730 metric tons in 2007) and
used in the United States in various construction and transportation products.
Ensuring a future decrease in mesothelioma mortality requires meticulous
control of exposures to asbestos and other materials that might cause
mesothelioma. Recent studies suggest that carbon nanotubes (fiber-shaped
nanoparticles), which are increasingly being used in manufacturing, might
share the carcinogenic instrument suggested for asbestos to induce mesothelioma,
underscoring the need for documentation of occupational history in future
cases. Capturing occupational history information for mesothelioma cases
is important to identify industries and occupations placing workers at
risk for this lethal disease.
Previously, the NIOSH rate files had only four categories for deaths due to unintentional injury: transportation accidents, accidental poisoning, accidents falls, and other. These categories were recently expanded to 27 more specific injury cases. The number of cause of death categories was increased primarily to allow for more detailed categories of occupational respiratory disease, cancer (including mesothelioma) and unintentional injuries.
Asbestos-related illnesses and occupational and industrial correlations are still being studied worldwide. If you believe you have been put at risk for developing an asbestos-related illness, contact an asbestos lung cancer lawyer today.