The Link Between Asbestos and Mesothelioma

Asbestos & Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive type of cancer that begins in the cells located in the protective lining of many of the body’s internal organs. It affects the membranes of the lungs and stomach quite quickly, and its usual cause is exposure to asbestos. Those who are exposed to asbestos are highly susceptible to this dangerous and often fatal disease when the fibers are swallowed or inhaled. The disease sometimes takes years to manifest itself which is why there are still many lawsuits being filed even though US government regulations required the removal of asbestos in industry and public buildings since the 1980s.

The Beginning

People who develop mesothelioma are usually those who held jobs where they inhaled or ingested the fibers of asbestos or were exposed to it in the air they breathed at work. This product was used quite frequently during the 20th century because of the economics of producing it, as well as its resistance to heat. From that time until the mid 1980s, most construction, industrial and military sites throughout the United States had contained many asbestos products. Another problem that resulted from this industrial use of asbestos was that these workers could inadvertently bring those fibers home and create a threat for anyone living under that same roof.

National Asbestos Legislation

Many policymakers in the United States have tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation banning all use of asbestos. Hopefully, as more cases of mesothelioma become obvious, they can finally accomplish this important legislative task. The U.S. has been aware of the dangers of asbestos for some time now with very few willing to dispute the major health hazards that are related to asbestos exposure. The issue is usually dealt with on a state level, and there is no uniformity involved in the approaches they take when handling the risks and claims.

While the federal government has taken some action regarding the dangers of asbestos, it has come under fire because of its failure to ban asbestos and develop a system to provide compensation for those who develop mesothelioma and other conditions that are directly related to exposure. It has also adopted policies for the purpose of promoting safety when dealing with asbestos. The U.S. has no universal ban on the use of this toxic mineral although 55 other countries have banned the use of asbestos.

History of Government Intervention

In spite of knowledge about the dangers of asbestos, there has been limited federal legislation to compensate claimants and/or their families for asbestos-related illness, loss of wages, and and/or death. Even though there are federal laws passed that created compensation for other types of claims such as The Black Lung Benefits Act for coal miners, there is no program currently available for victims suffering the effects of asbestos exposure.

Some of the information we know about the dangers of asbestos include the following:

  • 1930s – Medical evidence had linked exposure to asbestos with life-threatening diseases. Manufacturers failed to warn workers or the public of the dangers, and the use of asbestos in construction and industrial products continued.
  • 1960s – 1970s – During this decade we began to see the results of the health hazards related to asbestos exposure. Victims began to file lawsuits against manufacturers while claiming the manufacturers were aware of the health risks before they became ill. The government issued guidelines to limit exposure to the mineral.
  • 1980s – We saw an expansion of the guidelines that were issued during the 1970s with a focus on federal, state, and local public safety laws. Substantial attention was placed on abatement (removal or containment of asbestos from existing buildings). Attempts to ban the use of asbestos were unsuccessful.
  • Presently – The Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007 failed in 2009. September 26 was designated as National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of asbestos exposure, it’s important that you discuss your situation with a personal injury attorney. Mesothelioma claims can get very complex due to timeline issues, previous litigation, and even bankruptcy protection law. You need a lawyer who is experienced in mesothelioma litigation in order to ensure your best chance at a successful recovery.

From the Author: Mesothelioma Lawsuits 101

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