Anyone who has watched any amount of cable television has most likely heard of the bogeyman that is asbestos. Lurking in insulation and other building materials from decades past, all it needs is a slight disturbance to potentially cause life-threatening health issues. While health complications from asbestos might seem like a thing of the past akin to typhoid fever or any other number of diseases one might contract on The Oregon Trail, asbestos poisoning is very much still a major issue with lasting negative effects.
Fatalities Are Actually Increasing
When studies were first conducted on asbestos in the 1970s, government researchers and a variety of other groups, including the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization, predicted that the annual total of asbestos-related deaths would fall somewhere between 107,000 to 112,000. However, a study conducted by the International Commission of Occupational Health in May of 2018 put the number of actual asbestos-related deaths at an estimated 255,000 per year. That is nearly double what was originally projected, making asbestos much more deadly than it was once thought to be.
One reason for this massive increase in fatalities caused by asbestos is the fact that while asbestos is banned in over 60 countries, it is still legal in the U.S. Nearly 125 million workers worldwide are still at risk of exposure to asbestos through their occupation, and 1.3 million of those workers are living in the U.S. It isn’t just miners, electricians, construction workers, and firefighters who are at risk of exposure either; anyone who lives or has lived with someone who works closely with asbestos is at risk of secondary exposure.
Fortunately, the seriousness of this problem isn’t lost on everyone, especially those in the medical community. For those suffering from mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, new medical research is making headway in battling cancer, potentially offering up the promise of a better outcome. The treatments in the ongoing clinical trials include Endostatin, which when used in conjunction with Angiostatin can destroy a tumor’s ability to grow blood vessels. This is a ray of hope in an increasingly dire situation for many who have been affected by asbestos who might feel as though they are on borrowed time.
Asbestos Is A Legal Nightmare
The reason that there is a seemingly endless stream of advertisements for legal representation for those who have been harmed by asbestos is that there hasn’t been any real action taken by the government to prevent further exposure from occurring. In July of 2018, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.69 billionbecause they failed to warn customers that their baby powder contained talc, which can have naturally occurring asbestos in it. While most asbestos today is found in old insulation, it wasn’t actually illegal for Johnson & Johnson to produce products containing asbestos; their legal troubles stemmed from the fact that they simply didn’t provide adequate warning of the fact.
Despite a long and sordid history of causing fatal illnesses to those exposed to it, asbestos is still quite legal in the U.S. The federal government has had ample time to make this deadly product illegal, but has, for whatever reason, decided that companies are better off self-policing their usage of asbestos. This means that though a large majority of asbestos-related illnesses are developed due to occupational hazards or second-hand exposure, there is still a chance that products on the market today contain the deadly substance. While there are legal options available to those suffering, they are often going up against massive corporations with expensive legal teams.
If someone is considering either joining a class-action lawsuit or going up against a specific entity by themselves, it is important that they understand exactly what they are getting themselves into. Before taking legal action, getting a second opinion from a Legal Nurse Consultant with a good deal of experience with personal injury, malpractice, and workers’ compensation suits can help someone know if they have a legitimate case or not. Again, it is important to note that large companies generally have legal teams on retainer for such cases, and without a solid lawsuit, there is a good chance that someone will lose in a court of law.
Many Don’t Know What To Do
Though medical progress is being made towards potential new treatments for asbestos-related illnesses to reduce their potential fatality, in other areas there seems to be a concerted effort to undo the progress made in banning asbestos. While the use of asbestos has been banned in the use of spray-on insulation, commercial and corrugated paper production, flooring felt, and specialty paper since 1989, proposed EPA asbestos guidelines would effectively reverse the ban. This would open up opportunities for companies to begin, once again, exposing workers to this harmful substance.
Workers might once again be forced to handle asbestos regularly, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. Though it is possible to file a workers’ compensation claim if a worker sustained injuries or became ill due to job duties, ideally there would be government regulation put in place that would minimize the risk of asbestos exposure in the first place. A worker receiving a settlement because they became ill due to asbestos exposure is, at best, an extremely unfavorable outcome.
Asbestos poses a very real risk to workers, especially those within the construction field, of developing mesothelioma, larynx or lung cancer. Many feel powerless or even betrayed when confronted with a diagnosis of a potentially fatal illness, and the fact that these illnesses are entirely preventable only rubs salt in the proverbial wound. As individuals, the most important thing would be to remind local and state representatives of the severe dangers of asbestos and encourage them to stand up against any legislation that would make asbestos once again a common product in the U.S.
Unfortunately, asbestos-related illnesses aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Society will be dealing with the effects of asbestos exposure for years to come, both in hospitals and courthouses. While there are options available to those who are suffering because of asbestos exposure, the best possible outcome that could be reached is a complete blanket ban and illegalization of asbestos use in the U.S.
Author Info: Noah Rue is a writer, a digital nomad, and a graduate of the lessons of life (primary) and also the University of Idaho. These days, Noah teaches English as a second language in lovely Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and moonlights as a content strategist for an American based marketing company.