Helping People Exposed to Asbestos in the Workplace
The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma contracted the disease as a result of exposure to asbestos in the work environment. This may range from people who worked as asbestos miners prior to the 1970s when the mineral became regulated by the government to first responders to the World Trade Center collision site after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Napoli Shkolnik PLLC represents workers in all fields who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma after occupational asbestos exposure.
Approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed every year in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. It is estimated that 70-80% of these are the result of asbestos exposure in the workplace. The number of new diagnoses has leveled out in the past two decades, most likely because asbestos minerals are heavily regulated and workers are offered better protection when at risk.
In spite of the fact that asbestos is now regulated and known as a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), workers across the country are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The reason behind this is the disease’s long latency period, which may last as long as 20 to 50 years after initial exposure. A patient may not experience any symptoms until the disease is in its advanced stages. This makes treatment options limited. Only 5% to 10% of mesothelioma patients will live 5 or more years after being diagnosed. The average survival time ranges between 4 and 18 months, but this may vary dramatically depending on the patient’s age and overall health as well as the stage of cancer.
Types of Workers at Risk of Developing Mesothelioma
Workers in certain occupations are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure. Smoking cigarettes will increase this risk considerably. People who worked in the 1940s through the 1970s may have been exposed to asbestos without proper protection. Some of those at risk may include:
- Asbestos miners
- Construction workers
- Auto mechanics
- Navy personnel
- Shipyard workers
- Drywall tapers
Occupational Asbestos Exposure Still Occurs Today
Asbestos use in the United States peaked in the mid-twentieth century, when the U.S. was the world’s largest consumer of the mineral and its products. It was used in construction, shipbuilding, manufacturing, and for a number of purposes because it is not only heat-resistant and does not conduct electricity but is fibrous and therefore easily woven into cloth and used in a number of ways. Though the U.S. began regulating asbestos and asbestos-products in the 1970s, it was still present in homes and commercial buildings. Today, construction and demolition personnel working on older buildings may therefore still be exposed. With the Twin Towers’ collapse on September 11, 2001, countless workers and people living in the Lower Manhattan area of New York City were exposed to a cocktail of hazardous substances, including asbestos, which was present in the buildings.
Workers who perform renovations and add-ons or who destroy old buildings may be exposed to asbestos. Without proper protective gear and breathing apparatuses, they may inhale or ingest asbestos fibers, which can become embedded in the tissue the lines the lungs, heart, abdominal organs and body cavities. The body has trouble expelling these fibers, and they remain in the tissue, where they cause irritation, inflammation and scarring. This may pave the way for cancerous cells to form and multiply, causing mesothelioma.
Today’s employers are held to high standards when it comes to occupational asbestos exposure. They may face fines and other penalties if they violate the law in implementing these standards, and injured workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits plus other damages in some cases, if employer negligence or wrongdoing was involved in their exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website offers the following information about employer responsibility in terms of asbestos exposure in the workplace:
Airborne levels of asbestos are never to exceed legal worker exposure limits. Where the exposure does, employers are required to further protect workers by establishing regulated areas, controlling certain work practices and instituting engineering controls to reduce the airborne levels. The employer is required to ensure exposure is reduced by using administrative controls and provide for the wearing of personal protective equipment. Medical monitoring of workers is also required when legal limits and exposure times are exceeded.
Talk to a Mesothelioma Lawyer About Your Options
It is never too early to discuss your legal options with a lawyer who is experienced in handling mesothelioma and other asbestos exposure lawsuits. If you worked in construction, shipbuilding or another industry where you were exposed to asbestos and are now experiencing health problems, an attorney at our firm may be able to help you. We can advise you of your options at this point, even if you have not been diagnosed with mesothelioma specifically but are experiencing other medical problems. You may be entitled to financial compensation that will cover your medical care, making it easier on you and your family to make ends meet.
If you would like more information about this deadly form of cancer and your options as a worker who was exposed to asbestos, please contact an attorney at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC today. We represent workers across the United States and offer a free consultation to review your claim. Our headquarters are located in New York City and we have fully-staffed offices in six other states, including Delaware, New Jersey, Illinois and Florida.