First Week of April is National Asbestos Awareness Week

Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm announce that April 1st through the 7th is now recognized as National Asbestos Awareness Week. The legislation was introduced by Montana Senator Max Baucus (D), along with his cosponsors, and was passed unanimously through the Senate.

Senator Baucus was also instrumental in urging the EPA to announce its first-ever public health emergency stemming from the catastrophe in Libby, Montana. Perhaps the most well-known asbestos site in the United States, vermiculite ore contaminated with asbestos was mined near Libby from 1920 to 1990.

The mines were last owned by Western Minerals/W.R. Grace, which regularly shipped the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite ore throughout the country to be used in hundreds of products. The Libby vermiculite contained a specific kind of asbestos, tremolite, which is significantly more carcinogenic than any other type. As a result, the mortality rate from asbestosis alone was about 60 times higher in Libby than the rest of the United States.

Further aggravating the issue was that, in the course of the asbestos exposure lawsuits, it was revealed that Western Minerals/W.R. Grace had a plethora of internal documents detailing that executives knew about the contaminated vermiculite for decades, never once mentioning the potential dangers to workers or consumers. Nearly 300 people have died from the exposure so far in the tiny Montana town.

This week is intended to raise and spread awareness of asbestos and help prevent and ultimately cure asbestos-related diseases. It involves collaboration among national asbestos organizations, medical professionals, and international experts. Senator Tester, who also sponsored the resolution, stated that the week is also intended to prevent similar tragedies from occurring. Dozens of countries still allow the mining, processing, and exportation of asbestos, including Canada, Russia, and India.

Troublingly, the United States still imports asbestos, in the amount of about 13.2 million pounds each year. There continues to be extensive sales and production in South and Central America, Asia, and Africa, as these counties have such high demand for inexpensive building materials.

Many Americans, particularly the baby boomers, may remember encountering asbestos as children and young adults. It was prevalent in nearly every home, school, and military base throughout the country until the late 1970s, when it was established as a human carcinogen. The same children who were allowed to play with mercury as children were also at risk of asbestos exposure, because its carcinogenic nature was not yet publically confirmed. Many Americans may remember encountering a white fiber-like substance in their homes or schools, and may even remember touching it or being in its vicinity for extended periods of time. This substance was asbestos, which was commonly found around piping, fireproofing, roofing, and insulation materials.

At the peak of its demand in the 1960s, asbestos was used in about 3,000 applications. As illuminated by the internal documents at W.R. Grace, it is now known that these companies knew about the dangers of asbestos as early as the 1920s. This was the smoking gun in asbestos-related lawsuits, and since the 1980s, Americans victimized by these companies have sought justice for their suffering. There are 44 active trusts that are currently paying claims to victims.

Today, Louisiana has the highest amount of facilities that produce, process, or use asbestos, with eight. Although US consumption has been declining for more than two decades, the incidence of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses is increasing. This is because asbestos fibers, becoming lodged in workers’ lungs and internal organs, take about 20 to 50 years to develop into a disease.

Recently, Senate Resolution 66 was passed, which urges the Surgeon General to educate the public about the health effects of asbestos exposure. The resolution highlights that this exposure is most prevalent among high-risk occupations, such as in construction, automotive, and shipyard industries.

Unfortunately, at present, the expected survival time for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is less than one year, and there is no cure for asbestos-related diseases. If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed a related illness, it is important you contact an asbestos exposure attorney immediately. A skilled and experienced attorney can help you receive maximum compensation for past and future medical bills, wrongful death, or lost wages.

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