How Much Exposure to Asbestos Can Cause Cancer?
Asbestos is a mineral that has been used in thousands of products for over 100 years. Unfortunately, asbestos causes cancer and other serious diseases when it is inhaled or swallowed.
Did your doctor diagnose you with mesothelioma likely due to asbestos exposure? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for individuals who developed mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related cancers due to asbestos exposure.
Call a Chicago mesothelioma attorney today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral used in many products, including insulation and roofing, cement products, fireproofing materials, and brake parts.
Asbestos has been a construction material for over 100 years. The mineral has been used in thousands of products, including insulation, roofing, and many children's toys. Unfortunately, amphibole asbestos causes cancer when it is inhaled or swallowed.
Asbestos was often mixed into the cement poured onto the walls during construction (especially before 1980). It means that people living in homes built before 1980 are at a greater risk of developing a mesothelioma diagnosis.
However, many victims and workers exposed to hazardous asbestos were unaware of the health risks of working or being around asbestos-containing materials.
For example, people who worked in factories where asbestos was used might develop lung cancer due to breathing in dust particles containing deadly mineral fibers.
Even housekeepers and construction workers could risk mesothelioma or lung cancer if they had asbestos exposure. These individuals could experience health problems during their lifetimes, after only a few years of exposure!
People who work with products that may contain asbestos are often unaware that the dust from these materials causes asbestos-related cancer. Asbestos was even used in some children's toys until it became clear that the mineral was dangerous.
The Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organizations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 700,000 to 1 million people in the United States alone have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer due to asbestos exposure.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes a group of silicate minerals of asbestos identified as asbestos as a carcinogen that causes different types of cancer.
The Major Forms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that often affects the lung lining. Individuals with an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, pleural plaques, and other cancers include construction workers, product manufacturers, and those involved in asbestos mining.
Occupational asbestos exposure is most common, with individuals in the construction field working with products containing asbestos.
However, archeologists and anthropologists who study cave dwellers may also be exposed to hazardous asbestos through breathing in dust particles over time. People living near mining areas that contain asbestos are even at the risk of developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.
The major types of mesothelioma include:
- Malignant pleural mesothelioma: This disease affects the lung tissue lining and causes about 50% of all mesothelioma diagnosis
- Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: This disease affects the lining around the stomach area, ovaries, and fallopian tubes
- Malignant pericardial mesothelioma: This disease is rare and affects the lining around the heart
- Testicular mesothelioma: Men are affected by exposure to asbestos by developing testicular mesothelioma that affects the lining around the testicles
- Laryngeal cancer: Data shows that asbestos exposure can cause a 40% increase in developing laryngeal cancer, including indirect asbestos exposure
- Stomach cancer: Statistics show that occupational asbestos exposure can lead to stomach cancer by ingesting or inhaling asbestos fibers
The exposure to asbestos and cancer risk is extremely high when exposed to contaminated material in the workplace. Unfortunately, many individuals are diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases decades after their initial exposure.
In many cases, chest x-rays and CAT scans cannot detect asbestos fiber in lung tissue to identify early signs of lung disease.
Lung Cancer and Asbestos Exposure
Lung cancer is the most common type of cancerous diagnosis seen in individuals previously exposed to asbestos. Our personal injury attorneys see many lung cancer cases at our law firm due to an individual's exposure to dangerous asbestos.
People exposed to asbestos might develop lung cancer, including:
- Small cell lung cancer: About 80% of people who have been exposed to hazardous asbestos develop small cell lung cancer. This form of cancer is more common in smokers and younger patients.
- Non-small cell (NSCLC): This form of asbestos-related lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer observed in people repeatedly exposed to the toxic material.
- Squamous cell lung cancer: This type of lung cancer affects the lining in the bronchus.
- Large cell lung cancer: This form accounts for about 10% of all cases seen in asbestos exposure.
- Ovarian cancer and breast cancer: Though rare, women can develop ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and other asbestos illnesses, one you try to catch when exposed to chrysotile asbestos fibers.
According to the American Cancer Society, individuals exposed to asbestos must take proper precautions when working around items that might contain dangerous levels of asbestos fibers. Even individuals who live in houses built before 1980 have elevated risk factors for developing a mesothelioma diagnosis due to exposure to tiny asbestos fibers.
According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos exposure can lead to different types of asbestos cancer and other ailments, even decades after the initial exposure occurs. So, make sure you wear a respirator mask when working with items that could contain dangerous levels of asbestos fibers!
Asbestos Cancer Symptoms You Might Experience Following Exposure to Asbestos Fibers or Dust
Because malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer are frequently diagnosed long after exposure to dangerous asbestos, many people who have been exposed may not have any symptoms until the disease has progressed.
Symptoms that might be present when developing asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing that doesn't go away
- Chest pain or pressure
- Pleural effusion where fluid in the chest accumulates
- Wheezing, even when not exercising
- Weight loss, tiredness, and weakness
- Fluid in the chest or abdomen
- Dental issues such as persistent pain or teeth that look to be crumbling
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Vomiting blood or material that is black
- Intestinal bleeding, often resulting in bloody stool
The symptoms and diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases are not always easily identifiable, even when the victim is handling asbestos-containing products. However, smoking and asbestos exposure should be considered when doctors diagnose chronic lung disease and suspect workplace exposure to contaminated microscopic asbestos fibers.
According to professional medical advice, doctors often treat their mesothelioma patients with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and palliative care or recommend clinical trials to ease asbestos cancer symptoms. The carcinogenic risks of handling toxic substances have led to tens of thousands of lung cancer cases.
Diagnostic Tests for Asbestos Exposure Symptoms
According to the National Toxicology Program involving the National Institute of Health, if you are experiencing symptoms of an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, you might undergo the following diagnostic tests:
- Chest X-Ray: This test is used to look at your lungs. The images may show fluid in the lung area if you have pleural effusion or masses of tumor growth
- CT Scans: CT scans are more detailed than chest x-rays and can provide an in-depth examination of the lungs and other internal organs
- Pulmonary Function Test: This test measures how well your lungs work and include a breathing check and blood test to measure asbestos exposure symptoms
- Lung Biopsy: This procedure involves removing tissue samples from the lungs so they can be tested for cancer cells or another disease
- Breathing Tests: These tests are used to determine how well your lungs function and whether a fluid buildup should be drained out of the pleural cavity
Many of these tests can detect asbestos fibers or the damage it causes to the lungs and other tissue.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Regulations
For decades, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has been responsible for creating, implementing, and enforcing health and safety regulations in numerous industries, including manufacturing, construction, and maritime.
These regulations can include everything from ventilation requirements, protective equipment (i.e., respirators), and worker training programs to specific health standards for asbestos exposure.
OSHA was created as a branch of the U.S. Department of Labor to protect employees in various workplaces throughout the United States from injuries or illnesses due to unsafe working conditions.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set permissible exposure limits (PEL) for asbestos exposure that are to be used as guidelines when working around products or materials that contain hazardous levels of this substance.
OSHA enforces these PELs with frequent workplace inspections to ensure employers follow health and safety guidelines, i.e., using proper equipment and ensuring employees wear protective gear.
Individual states in the United States also have their occupational health and safety rules that can include more stringent guidelines than OSHA, so be aware that you may need to follow different requirements depending upon which state is conducting the inspection.
OSHA is constantly working toward creating new regulations for asbestos exposure, including making the PELs more stringent.
Asbestos Exposure Laws in the United States
The first laws to address asbestos exposure were enacted by individual states, including laws designed to protect exposed workers from being fired or having their insurance rates raised.
However, many people consider these protections inadequate due to the time that typically elapses between initial exposure and when asbestos-related diseases manifest. Currently, there are no federal laws that require employers to provide medical benefits for individuals who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
United States Regulations on Asbestos Disposal
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has created regulations that affect certain aspects of asbestos abatement and disposals, such as required training in handling this hazardous material and various mandatory procedures that must be followed when in contact with it.
Workers in the United States who may contact asbestos receive special training often and licensing from their employers, including classroom and hands-on instruction.
Additionally, all individuals working with asbestos are required to wear protective gear such as coveralls, disposable respirators (or full-face masks), and safety glasses; in some cases, heavy rubber gloves may also be required.
OSHA rules state that employers must provide these types of protective clothing for employees who may encounter asbestos at work. Still, this equipment is often not offered voluntarily.
Do Employers Have to Pay for Occupations That Often Affect the Lung Lining Asbestos Exposure?
Both OSHA and the EPA are primarily concerned with protecting public health rather than workers who have been exposed at their place of business.
However, if an employer has failed to provide a safe working environment or has made deliberate choices that endanger employee safety (i.e., hiring an unlicensed contractor to remove asbestos), they may face legal repercussions.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2020 found a clear link between cosmetic talc products and tremolite or anthophyllite asbestos.
The researchers discovered traces of carcinogenic fibers in 80% of ovarian cancer cases linked to personal hygiene products manufactured with asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.
Data shows no federal laws requiring employers to pay their injured workers for exposure to hazardous asbestos. Additionally, OSHA and the federal government do not provide financial compensation for damages if victims are exposed to asbestos.
For example, suppose the employer fired a victim who developed mesothelioma for disclosing the dangers of being exposed to the contaminated product. In that case, the court might rule in favor of awarding damages but only if the company inappropriately acted against the victim.
Investigate Your Asbestos-Related Mesothelioma Diagnosis
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the symptoms of mesothelioma can be very subtle, and early-stage and late-stage cases can look identical to other serious respiratory conditions.
Unfortunately, this means that in some cases, mesothelioma is not correctly diagnosed until the disease has progressed to a later stage, which makes it more difficult — if not impossible — for doctors to treat effectively.
However, all forms of mesothelioma can be deadly.
Who Is Most at Risk for Developing a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
Many different jobs expose people to asbestos, including:
- Construction workers: People who work on buildings built before 1980 may have been exposed to asbestos insulation, fireproofing materials, and other construction products containing asbestos.
- Shipyard workers: Workers who spend time around or inside Navy ships are at an increased cancer risk of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other asbestos cancers. It is since asbestos was heavily used in the construction of these vessels.
- Auto mechanics: People who worked on clutches, brake pads, and other engine parts before 1980 may have been exposed to asbestos dust.
- Roofers: Workers who spent time on roofs were sometimes exposed to asbestos products used to construct these structures.
- Electricians: People who worked near steam and power turbines may have been exposed to asbestos products used for insulation and other purposes.
- Industrial workers: Factory employees at foundries and steel mills may have been exposed to asbestos insulation and fireproofing agents used for machinery.
Asbestos-related cancer research reveals that these victims were exposed to a substance they did not know could lead to chrysotile asbestos cancer and other diseases. Unfortunately, many of these victims had to fight the same corporations that made their workplaces dangerous.
Some of these companies are still around today, but many went bankrupt or merged with other large companies to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Some people diagnosed with mesothelioma (or family members diagnosed with this condition) sued and won compensation for their injuries.
While these victories were a good start, many people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are still fighting for compensation from negligent companies.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and believes that your exposure to hazardous asbestos may be the cause of your illness, you should speak with an attorney about your case.
The following are just a few of the companies that have been accused of negligence in asbestos-related matters:
Union Carbide Company
In 1999, Union Carbide Company (UCC) was accused of being responsible for the development of mesothelioma. An Ohio jury ordered UCC to pay more than $200 million to six plaintiffs in this particular instance.
UCC was accused of knowing that asbestos could cause cancers and other health problems but failing to warn its employees and customers about this risk. However, UCC claims they did not intentionally expose anyone to asbestos and did not even own any mines where this mineral was found.
Though UCC is still a large company, its former corporation Union Carbide was involved in a disaster that killed thousands. In December 1984, the Bhopal chemical leak from a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide killed as many as 15,000 people and injured tens of thousands more.
Though the chemicals released were not mined from asbestos mines, they were made with the help of UCC, which was one of several companies that merged to form the current corporation.
In 2000, Bendix Corporation faced a lawsuit from a woman who claimed she developed mesothelioma due to her exposure to asbestos products used by this company. Though Bendix Corporation won this case and others like it, they lost the latest round.
The defendant has appealed the verdict, but this ruling may mean that Bendix Corporation will have to pay significant compensation to other people diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Eagle-Pitcher Industries Incorporated
This company is one of several that filed for bankruptcy after being accused of negligence in asbestos-related lawsuits. The company was accused of knowing that asbestos could cause cancer and other asbestos-related illnesses, failing to warn those who used its products about the risk.
In 2001, Eagle-Pitcher Industries Incorporated's assets were distributed among one or more successor companies after filing for bankruptcy. One such company is White Consolidated Industries, formed when Eagle-Pitcher's boiler and tank manufacturing divisions merged with White Industries.
Ford Motor Company
In 1999, several people who worked for Ford sued the company because they believed the asbestos used in the brakes of their cars caused them to develop mesothelioma.
Their allegations were supported by documents obtained from an Ohio court that showed Ford Motor Company was aware of the dangers associated with asbestos.
Despite this evidence, Ford won their case in court because they could not be held liable for injuries when the company was not producing any parts when the asbestos-related cancers were diagnosed.
Unfortunately, though this ruling appeared to protect Ford from future litigation, it did little to help them in their current situation.
Other companies that have been involved in asbestos-related lawsuits include Lockheed Martin, Owens Corning, 3M Company, and DuPont. Of course, if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should speak with an attorney about your case.
Asbestos-exposed workers who develop pleural mesothelioma, perineal mesothelioma, and lung cancer can file a lawsuit against their employer, citing damages. Still, it is important to keep in mind that these cases are not easy to win.
Hiring an Asbestos Injury Lawyer to Resolve your Compensation Case
The doctor to diagnose you with mesothelioma or another asbestos cancer? Are you seeking financial compensation to recover your damages and provide for your family's future?
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC are legal advocates protecting the rights of individuals exposed to toxic substances, including asbestos fibers.
If you were injured, call our legal team today at (888) 424-5757) toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation.
We accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. This agreement ensures you pay nothing until your case is resolved through a negotiated settlement or jury award.