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Mesothelioma & Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous silicate mineral known for producing long, thin, and strong crystalline fibers. Asbestos is generally found in large deposits in the Earth’s subsurface. There are six different types of asbestos, which is often found as a contaminant in vermiculite and talc minerals as well.

The strength of asbestos, along with its natural ability to resist heat, corrosion, and electricity, made it a “miracle material” for the construction trade in the early half of the 20th Century. As asbestos easily combines with cement, plastic and paper, many other consumer products contained the mineral until the 1970’s, when the United States government determined asbestos to be a serious public health hazard due to its carcinogenic properties.

The asbestos mineral’s glass-like fibrous composition causes it to break apart during processing, releasing microscopic fibrils into the atmosphere as dust. No amount of exposure to asbestos is safe, due to its ability to remain in the body and accumulate, sometimes for decades. When inhaled, asbestos is extremely hazardous and almost always leads to certain aggressive types of cancer, one being mesothelioma.

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What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare and extremely aggressive cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. When inhaled or ingested fibers become trapped deep in the body’s tissue they can cause inflammation, scarring, and cell damage that frequently lead to cancer. Not all who are exposed to asbestos develop mesothelioma, but all types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma.

There is an exposure-response relationship between asbestos and mesothelioma development, meaning that each time a person in exposed to asbestos the risk of developing the cancer increases. Data shows that of those who work with asbestos, eight to 13 percent eventually develop mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers that travel to other locations throughout the body can cause different types of mesothelioma, such as pleural mesothelioma in the lungs or peritoneal mesothelioma in the abdominal cavity.

Treatment for mesothelioma is especially difficult as the cancer produces malignant cell growth in the membrane surrounding the heart, lungs, and abdominal cavity, and is highly resistant to medical treatment.

Symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where in the body it occurs, but commonly include:

Pleural mesothelioma, cancer affecting the lungs:

  • Chest pain and burning, painful coughing
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Unusual lumps in the chest under the skin
  • Unintentional or unexplained weight loss

Pericardial mesothelioma, cancer affecting the tissue surrounding the heart:

  • Chest pain or burning
  • Difficulty breathing

Peritoneal mesothelioma, cancer affecting the abdomen:

  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unintentional or unexplained weight loss

Tunica vaginalis mesothelioma, a rare cancer affecting the tissue surrounding the testicles:

  • Swelling of the testicle
  • A mass or lump on the testicle

How Are People Exposed to Asbestos?

Until the 1970’s asbestos was so commonly used in products and construction that anyone living before that time has likely had at lease some asbestos exposure. According to the World Health Organization, over 125 million people worldwide are at risk of asbestos exposure in the workplace. In the United States, approximately 1.3 million construction and general industry workers remain at risk of exposure.

Bottom of FormTop of FormBottom of FormPeople at greatest risk of asbestos exposure are those working with asbestos-containing materials, or living near locations where asbestos is mined, manufactured into products, or disturbed through building renovation, demolition, or deterioration.

Spouses and families of asbestos workers may also be at risk of secondary exposure by asbestos fibers carried home on clothing, hair, and skin. Although government regulation of asbestos has now greatly curtailed public exposure, anyone with a past history of asbestos exposure may be at risk of developing mesothelioma, given its ability to develop years or even decades, later.

Workers in the following industries, particularly prior to the 1970s, are at the highest risk of developing mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure:

  • Aircraft and aerospace trades and manufacturers
  • Automotive trades, particularly brake and clutch mechanics
  • Chemical, cement, and rubber plants
  • Construction, particularly during renovation and demolition of older buildings
  • Custodial and building maintenance
  • Engineering, electrical, and plumbing trades
  • Manufacturing of products containing asbestos
  • Mining, especially asbestos and vermiculite
  • Oil trades and refineries
  • Railroad industry
  • Shipbuilding and maritime occupations
  • Steel mill manufacturers
  • Telephone industry, phone cable manufacturers, linemen, and installers
  • Textile factories and industrial garment factories
  • Warehousing industry and trades

Fireman, and potentially other first responders, can be exposed to asbestos during building fires and other disaster response situations. Military veterans have higher rates of mesothelioma due to the American armed forces’ extensive use of asbestos in each of the country’s military branches. The U.S. Navy used asbestos extensively on ships, submarines, and shipyards to prevent fires, causing Navy veterans the highest rates of exposure in the military.

The majority of individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure were employed in blue-collar professions and the military.

Though typical exposure occurs by inhaling the fibers, asbestos can also be ingested through drinking water, either due to erosion from natural and waste deposits, or through asbestos-cement water pipes. In the United States, thousands of miles of cement pipes mixed with asbestos carry drinking water to the nation’s cities and towns. When these pipes begin to corrode, asbestos fibers can leach into the water supply. Contaminated water can further expose people when used in humidifiers and other devices that aerosolize water and release it into the air.

Those living near areas with large deposits of naturally occurring asbestos are especially vulnerable to exposure through water supplies, contaminated soil, and airborne asbestos fibers due to disruption of the deposits.

Who is Responsible for My Asbestos-related Mesothelioma?

Typically, the company that permitted the asbestos exposure is liable in mesothelioma cases. In some instances, companies have been negligent about the asbestos exposure to their employees, particularly those who were aware the danger and continued to put workers at risk. If liable, companies may owe compensation to the workers and their families to cover medical bills and ongoing care, travel expenses, and pain and suffering, among other expenses.

Mesothelioma lawsuits are not confined strictly to employers and their workers, however. There are three different scenarios that can result in exposure to asbestos:

  • Occupational exposure: The most common cause of mesothelioma cancers is due to occupational exposure, where workers are exposed to asbestos through their employment on jobsites and other work-related tasks in the vicinity of asbestos.
  • Secondary exposure: This type of exposure occurs when others, such as family members, become exposed to asbestos through contact with people who work with asbestos or materials containing asbestos.
  • Hazardous product exposure: Hazardous exposure occurs through contact with asbestos-containing products and can also be considered occupational or secondary exposure as Oftentimes, mesothelioma cases due to asbestos exposure may involve multiple responsible parties, such as those of workers who migrate between various jobsites with different owners. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can guide you through the process and you identify the responsible parties.

If you have a history of asbestos exposure and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another serious asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your care and related expenses.

Wilmington Mesothelioma Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar Represent Clients with Life-Threatening Illnesses Due to Asbestos Exposure

If you or someone you love is suffering from an asbestos disease such as mesothelioma, our experienced Wilmington mesothelioma lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar have succeeded in obtaining some of the highest judgments and settlements for asbestos cases in the nation. Our mesothelioma lawyers won a $32 million judgment for four plaintiffs in one asbestosis case, $22 million for the plaintiff in another, and achieved multimillion-dollar settlements in mesothelioma cases. Contact us at 302-656-5445 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients in Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.