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Asbestos and Cancer: What You Need to Know

You’ve seen the commercials on TV—the ones with the melodramatic voice that boom, “If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation!”

Class-action lawsuits abound surrounding mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. And while the commercials look silly, the illness they’re talking about is far from a joke. Read on to learn about the dangers of asbestos, some of the tell-tale signs of mesothelioma, and your legal rights.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is made of six minerals that combine to make bundles of fibers. These fibers were found to be useful in commercial and industrial projects because they are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals, and do not conduct electricity. Since the late 19th century, asbestos has been used for everything from soundproofing to strengthening cement and plastics to vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads.

The material’s health risks were discovered in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until much later that asbestos was phased out of use. In the late 1970s, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned asbestos in wallboard patching compounds and gas fireplaces. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency banned its use in all new products. It also mandated that schools inspect their buildings and remove or encase any exposed asbestos.

When someone inhales asbestos fibers, the materials can become trapped in the lungs. Over time, they can cause scarring and inflammation of the lungs, leading to difficulty breathing and other serious health complications. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says asbestos can cause cancer of the lungs, larynx and ovary, as well as mesothelioma.

What is Mesothelioma?

According to the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center, “Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. Caused primarily by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed in older individuals who worked with asbestos in an industrial setting.”

The cancer is most commonly found in men and women who inhaled asbestos on a regular basis, usually from their place of work. Shipyard workers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, pipefitters, boilermakers, mechanics and other industrial jobs are most at risk. Additionally, approximately one-third of mesothelioma patients are military veterans.

Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and fluid buildup in lungs tend to appear 10-50 years after exposure, but it is difficult to diagnose the disease based on symptoms alone. For a firm diagnosis, a doctor must perform a biopsy.

Treatment is available to slow and reduce symptoms, but a cure does not yet exist.

The cost of treatment can be high, and there are many trust funds set up (providing $30 billion total) to help offset medical and living costs. If you suffer from mesothelioma due to work-related asbestos exposure, you have legal rights.

Contact the Law Office of D. Hardison Wood for more information and representation.

This entry was posted in Personal Injury.