People exposed to asbestos by jobs or family members’ work clothing in the 1970s might only be aware of their cancer now.

It only takes a single breath to get mesothelioma, a very rare and extremely aggressive kind of heart-lung cancer. However, it may take up to seventy years to diagnose this disease. The long latency period creates significant diagnosis problems, as outlined below. As a result, while the overall cancer survival rate has improved tremendously since the 1990s, mesothelioma’s five-year survival rate is still extremely low.

Peritoneal mesothelioma (abdominal cancer) and pleural mesothelioma (lung cancer) are usually fatal. Other asbestos exposure-related diseases are sometimes fatal. These conditions include lung diseases, such as asbestosis and pleural thickening. Asbestosis burns airways inside the lungs, causing asbestosis, and also inflames the lining of the lungs, causing pleural thickening. 

An asbestos exposure lawyer obtains the compensation survivors need to move forward with their lives. Perhaps more importantly, an asbestos exposure lawyer holds asbestos manufacturers and other such companies responsible for the injuries they caused. Furthermore, lawyers stand up for lost asbestos exposure victims in court. Lawyers work behind the scenes as well, pushing for more restrictive asbestos laws. 

Industries Most At-Risk 

Asbestos was used in thousands of products and building materials, including in nearly every building constructed before the mid-1980s. So anyone with an industrial job from construction to demolition, manufacturing, refining, mining or milling may be at risk.

But some industries worked most closely with asbestos products and have been deemed by OSHA, the CDC and many health studies to be at the greatest risk of asbestos-related cancer.

Shipbuilding, commercial construction, and residential construction all boomed from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s. These companies ignored the health risks of asbestos and used this fibrous mineral everywhere possible.

Asbestos fibers don’t conduct heat. The fragile and crumbly chrysotile asbestos particles were used in:

  • Attic Insulation

Heating and cooling costs are usually one of the largest items in a family’s or organization’s budget. These owners encouraged builders to use asbestos, since they, like asbestos workers, were largely unaware of the risks.

  • Roof Shingles

Heat-proof asbestos contains fires. So, asbestos-laced roof shingles and other roof materials were a natural extension of asbestos insulation. According to most consumers, more is better. These consumers didn’t know, or at least didn’t actually know, that more asbestos also meant more risk.

  • Ceiling Tiles

A structure’s ceiling is also an extension of attic insulation. If these tiles don’t absorb heat, more heat remains in the air. Asbestos has other properties as well. It strengthens material and doesn’t conduct noise. These properties made it an even more attractive ceiling tile additive.

Asbestos also doesn’t conduct electricity, making it an ideal electric wire insulator. Once again, chrysotile asbestos was the substance of choice. This substance easily breaks down, creating secondhand exposure risk. More on that below.

Because of these qualities, before 1980, shipbuilders used asbestos in ships, usually in heat-generating areas, like the boiler room. Shipbuilders also lined dangerous areas, like ammunition storage areas, with asbestos.

Furthermore, ships are notoriously noisy. Asbestos in ceiling and floor tiles made common areas quieter, making long sea voyages more tolerable for sailors.

At-Risk Victims

Construction workers on both land and sea were exposed to asbestos before 1980. Renovation and demolition workers are still exposed to asbestos today. General construction workers risk mesothelioma and other asbestos exposure workers. Finishing workers, such as pipe fitters and electricians, were and are at risk as well.

A single microscopic fiber could cause mesothelioma or another asbestos exposure illness. Usually, victims inhale these fibers. However, they’re also small enough to absorb directly through the skin.

For years, mesothelioma studies have focused on men, since men primarily worked construction jobs back in the day. So, mesothelioma among women is severely underreported. Furthermore, the mesothelioma fatality rate among women is even higher than the fatality rate among men.

Second-hand asbestos exposure (domestic exposure / family exposure)

Many female mesothelioma victims are secondary exposure victims who lived with at-risk workers or lived or worked near an asbestos hotspot, like a mine or a manufacturing facility. 

Industrial workers often carried fibers home in their vehicles or on their clothes. Loose fibers from hotspots floated through the air and infected nearby residents. Most mine and manufacturing office workers were women. These workers hardly ever wore PPE (personal protective equipment).

Mesothelioma Medical Issues

The long latency period of this disease makes it difficult, but not impossible, to diagnose it. Usually, doctors use a combination of non-medical and medical evidence in this area.

Most pleural mesothelioma victims have no genetic or lifestyle markers. They don’t have a family history of this disease and they don’t smoke. A work history that includes a stint as a construction worker or other at-risk worker, especially before 1980, often prompts doctors to test for asbestos exposure.

X-ray tests often spot mesothelioma tumors, especially if doctors look carefully. If they see a suspicious lump, they normally order B-reader radiation tests. These scans often positively identify pleural mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, most cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, are ineffective in pleural mesothelioma cases. The tumor is in such a sensitive location that aggressive treatments often do more harm than good.

As a rule of thumb, peritoneal mesothelioma (abdominal cancer) is harder to spot but easier to treat. 

Cross-contamination, a special kind of household exposure, usually causes this disease. Asbestos mines often mixed with talc and other mines. So, talcum powder and many other household products were tainted with asbestos. 

These victims have no non-medical markers, which were discussed above. Therefore, doctors often don’t order X-ray tests or don’t know what to look for when they examine the pictures.

Despite these challenges, peritoneal mesothelioma’s survival rate is a little higher than the pleural mesothelioma survival rate. Aggressive treatments, such as a combination of surgery and advanced chemotherapy injections, have proven successful in many cases.

Compensation Available for Mesothelioma Victims

Once the asbestos cover up unraveled, many asbestos manufacturers filed bankruptcy. As a result, mesothelioma victims have legal and non-legal options. 

Compensation for direct exposure victims is usually available through VA disability or workers’ compensation. Victims who establish work or service-related exposure usually receive lost wage replacement. That includes lost prior and future wages. These benefits usually include medical bill payment as well.

In some states and in some situations, direct exposure mesothelioma victims can file claims against asbestos producers or negligent property owners. Asbestos producers are normally strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. Property owners could be legally responsible for damages even if they didn’t actually know their buildings contained asbestos.

Asbestos trusts tend to be the fastest and easiest way to receive financial support for an asbestos claim. They also do not involve courts, court fees, depositions, or any risk.

Secondary exposure victims usually file these civil claims as well. Employers and service branches usually don’t have a legal duty to protect non-workers and non-servicemembers. The Camp Lejeune water poisoning controversy may change the law in this area.

When asbestos producers declared bankruptcy, they usually contributed to large victim compensation funds. If a mesothelioma victim traces exposure to such a company, the victim or survivors may file VCF claims. These claims are less legally complex than the aforementioned ones, but they’re normally harder to settle.