If you or a loved one has malignant mesothelioma, you know better than anyone that it is a terrifying and debilitating disease. The prognosis is usually pretty grim, and the side effects of the treatments can often be worse than the original disease symptoms.
But mesothelioma is more than just a rare cancer, along with other asbestos related illnesses; it is also at the heart of some serious legal issues.
The Legal Side of Mesothelioma
A majority of malignant mesothelioma cases are caused by repeated and prolonged exposure to asbestos. For most people in the United States, that repeated and prolonged exposure occurred from working in environments with high concentrations of asbestos and asbestos dust, such as:
- Asbestos mines;
- Factories that made products out of asbestos;
- Occupations that used asbestos-based products, such as the automotive industry;
- Occupations that damaged or destroyed asbestos products, such as construction and demolition; and,
- Occupations that involved working in spaces with a lot of asbestos-based materials, such as the military.
Other people became exposed from living in buildings that had a lot of damaged asbestos, of from living with individuals who would carry asbestos home on their clothing.
The Issue with Asbestos Exposure
It Was Preventable.
Asbestos is not a 20th century discovery; humans have been using it for millennia, and have been having asbestos-related health problems for about as long.
Dating as far back as 3000 BC, people were using asbestos in pottery, in flame-retardant fabrics, to insulate armor, and in building materials. Reports of the health risks of asbestos exposure date back as far as the first century.
However, the use of asbestos didn’t become widespread until the industrial revolution of the 19th century, when factories required asbestos for insulation and fire prevention, and when those same factories made it possible to produce more and more asbestos-based products.
Unfortunately, while the demand for asbestos-based products grew, concerns over worker safety did not. At the height of the asbestos era in this country, many asbestos manufacturers were aware of the risks of exposure, and chose to hide that information from their employees. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the EPA began regulating asbestos and required asbestos manufacturers to protect their employees. Up until that point, thousands of asbestos workers were exposed unnecessarily to high levels of asbestos dust.
This means that the asbestos industry could have prevented the deaths and illnesses of thousands of workers.
Mesothelioma’s Long Latency Period.
Mesothelioma can take decades to develop. Most of those workers who were exposed to asbestos dust in the 1950s, while they were in their 20s and 30s, didn’t start exhibiting symptoms until long after they had retired.
Because most of the asbestos manufacturers kept information about the health risks under wraps, many of these men were completely unaware that their illnesses were directly related to the jobs they had retired from years before. Many of them were also not aware that the seeds of the disease had been planted decades before they even started getting sick.
The long latency period made it difficult for people to trace the cause of the disease.
If an asbestos worker was also a smoker, or if he worked in other industrial settings over the years, he might believe that those other factors contributed to his illness.
Family members of asbestos workers often fared even worse because, supposedly, they never went anywhere near the asbestos factories and therefore could not trace their illness back to asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma’s long incubation period gave asbestos manufacturers a certain degree of deniability, and helps them hide their neglectful behavior.
Mesothelioma’s Grim Prognosis
Most people with mesothelioma are not diagnosed until they are in the later stages of the disease; and, by then, the prognosis is generally grim. Many are lucky to live another 12 months after the initial diagnosis; and, as stated before, the treatments are often debilitating.
Even if someone realizes that his illness is due to asbestos exposure, neither he nor his family could have the energy or knowledge to pursue a lawsuit. Another issue is that the patient could simply die before he has the opportunity to do anything, and his family won’t know that they could have filed a lawsuit on his behalf.
Mesothelioma’s grim prognosis means that many of these patients will never see justice for the injuries they have suffered at the hands of the asbestos manufacturers.
Making Things Right
People with mesothelioma–and their families–should look for any and all information on mesothelioma lawsuits. There are several internet resources that can tell you everything you need to know about your right to sue, as well as the history of the asbestos industry cover up.
You should also try to contact the other people you worked with. You might be surprised to find that they, and even their family members, are having many of the same health problems as you.
If you believe that you have a case, then you should also contact a lawyer as quickly as possible. Mesothelioma is a fairly aggressive illness and the longer you wait, the less time you will have to file. If you know other people from the same factory, who all have the same illness, you might even be able to file a class action suit.
[box type=”note”]The important thing to remember is that the asbestos industry intentionally withheld information about the health risks of asbestos exposure, and that industry negligence was directly responsible for the preventable deaths of thousands of people.[/box]