Mesothelioma in a Connecticut Friction Factory

The Raybestos Manhattan friction products plant has been the subject of numerous medical investigations pertaining to the occurrence of mesothelioma in its workers. One of the most recent studies was conducted by the British Occupational Hygiene Society and reports of at least five cases of mesothelioma in the Connecticut factory workers.

These studies are spurred in no small part by the recent claims that chrysotile asbestos is less potent, and therefore less likely to induce mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. This claim is currently being exploited by the Canadian government in their rationalization of why they continue to mine and export millions of tons of asbestos.

Mesothelioma lawyers highlight the importance of scientific and medical studies negating this claim. Findings of proven individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure to chrysotile asbestos will significantly fuel the acceptance of a global asbestos ban.

Asbestos is comprised of six unique fiber types, which are delegated into two groups: serpentine and amphibole. Chrysotile is the sole member of the serpentine group, while the remaining five types are considered amphibole.

The Raybestos factory opened in 1913 and began making asbestos-containing products in the late 1930s. Chrysotile (imported mainly from Canada) was the only asbestos mineral used until 1957, when small amounts of anthophyllite were added.

One subject, a woman who worked at the plant between 1926-1937, recalled the enveloping presence of asbestos dust in the facility. This woman is just one of six workers diagnosed with mesothelioma who sought legal representation to hold Raybestos accountable for its mistreatment. An additional subject worked at the plant for one year following a 20-year career as a navy machinist and chief machinist. Tissue analysis revealed amosite asbestos in his lungs. Because of this mixed asbestos-type exposure, he was exluded from the discussion, which is concerned with mesothelioma following exposure to chrysotile.

This leaves, at a minimum, six workers, three women and three men, who died of mesothelioma. The researchers calculated an estimate of mesothelioma risk at the Raybestos plant and compared this estimate to those derived from American textile plants and Quebec miners and millers.

They note that their count of cases from the Raybestos plant is a minimum estimate, given that they were able to identify only those cases seeking legal assistance. Their study proves beyond doubt that any risk assessment that assigns no cases of mesothelioma to this plant, or to any plants, is thus in error and will under-estimate the risk of mesothelioma attributable to chrysotile exposure. Calculations suggest that mesothelioma rates at this plant were similar to those observed in the South Carolina textile factory and in Quebec mining and milling.

Asbestosis and mesothelioma was diagnosed in many Quebec chrysotile asbestos miners and millers, which is significant because most of the asbestos used in the Connecticut plant was imported from Quebec. Many workers’ job duties, including the men reported in this study, was to mix and grind raw asbestos in the manufacture of asbestos-containing products, which included brakes and fiction materials. To suggest that mesothelioma developing in end users of the product is attributable to amphiboles is illogical.

These observations have implication for the risk assessment of chrysotile asbestos. They also have political implications for the Government of Canada, which has been called upon to ban the export of chrysotile asbestos. The effects of asbestos on health are one of the best documented, yet most controversial, topics in occupational health. Although many thousands of articles are available on the health effects of asbestos, considerable debate remains on the differences in carcinogenicity among different fiber types.

These debates, while valid, lead only to occupational exposure limits that do not protect the workforce against harmful effects. It was only through public documentation of the adverse health effects of asbestos that it was ever banned in the first place. Companies like Raybestos adamantly and falsely denied any knowledge of such effects. This is similar to the current stance the Canadian Government is taking on the effects of chrysotile asbestos, citing ignorance and lack of significant medical findings, though they do exist. Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm work on behalf of victims who developed illnesses associated with asbestos. Contact our firm today for more information and a free legal consultation.

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