Scientific researchers say unanimously that cases of mesothelioma are caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral used for many years in numerous industrial projects. While most uses of asbestos are now strictly limited or banned by federal law, millions of American workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos during the 20th century, as the fire-resistant material made its way into the construction, manufacturing, shipping, and automobile industries.
Exposure to asbestos fibers, asbestos-containing products and, in some cases, people who have worked regularly with asbestos, are the only known causes of mesothelioma. This isn’t new information. Scientific researchers have understood the devastating effects of asbestos for over a century.
Who Is At Risk?
Asbestos fibers are very resistant to heat. Strong and highly-insulating, the mineral was quickly adopted by numerous industries for its incredible physical properties.
Military service members were eventually surrounded by the deadly substance, especially those in the Navy, where asbestos was used in everything. In fact, around 30% of all the mesothelioma victims who die of this disease are veterans, according to Military.com. This high percentage is shocking because veterans make up only 8% of the US population.
Veterans & Shipyard Workers
Workers throughout the construction industry also have to face the consequences of their industry’s former reliance on asbestos. Alongside its widespread use as an insulation material, asbestos became a common component of gaskets, pipes, drywall, flooring, and some cement pastes.
Electricians, pipe-fitters, and plumbers may be living with the highest risk of developing mesothelioma, along with those who worked in the shipbuilding industry.
Family Members & Loved Ones
Thousands of Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. Most cases of mesothelioma are linked to occupational exposure, but many family members who lived with asbestos workers have also developed the disease.
The cancer is aggressive, making early diagnosis and treatment very important. However, the disease also carries a long latency period. In short, the amount of time between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma symptoms can be very long. In many cases, the symptoms will only appear twenty to fifty years after the patient’s exposure to asbestos. That means many workers who retired decades ago are only now being diagnosed with this cancer.
Legal Assistance For Those With Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma patients and their loved ones are not alone in this situation. While treatments for mesothelioma can be very costly, financial compensation is available for workers who were knowingly exposed to asbestos by their employers. Throughout the mid- to late-20th century, hundreds of companies allowed their employees to work closely with asbestos for years, despite substantial scientific evidence that the mineral they were working with or near caused cancer. Even as the medical evidence grew, these employers continued to use asbestos, going so far as to lie to their workers and the public about the risks of this deadly material.
Seeking Compensation For Asbestos Injuries
These companies are now paying for their wrongdoings. Beginning in 1973, workers who developed mesothelioma began to file lawsuits against their employers and they soon were winning those lawsuits. By 2002, around 730,000 mesothelioma patients, along with families who lost loved ones to this cancer, filed lawsuits of their own. Today, more than 10,000 corporate entities, from asbestos mining interests to construction companies, have had lawsuits directed at them.
No organization has been established to track the progress of mesothelioma settlements but estimates suggest that several billions of dollars in compensation have already been distributed.
Mesothelioma Trust Funds
Asbestos litigation have grown so gigantic that many of the original defendants have now entered bankruptcy. As part of their bankruptcy proceedings, most of these employers were required to establish special trust funds, designed specifically to compensate victims of asbestos exposure. Data suggests that these mesothelioma trust funds currently sit at around $37 billion, money that has yet to be distributed to patients and their families.
Mesothelioma patients who developed the disease due to their employer’s wrongdoing are entitled to receive compensation from these funds. Most families use their asbestos settlements to pay for past and future medical expenses and wages lost due to this cancer, as well as compensation for the pain and suffering that mesothelioma has caused them.