Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with an ultra-fine, fibrous composition. Valued for its fire resistance, asbestos was once heavily used in the manufacturing and construction industries. Found in ceilings, siding, and other building elements, this material is now known to be incredibly hazardous to humans. Mesothelioma is but one of several terminal cancers that asbestos is known to cause. When tiny asbestos fibers are breathed into the body or swallowed, this aggressive cancer can form in the lungs, stomach, and heart. Read on to learn about mesothelioma and its many legal implications.
What Mesothelioma Is and Why It Forms
Unfortunately, although asbestos is no longer used in residential or commercial environments, older buildings are often rife with it. When stable and undisturbed, this material is unlikely to cause physical harm. However, as asbestos ages and dries out, it may release micro-fine fibers into the air. When these fibers are breathed in, they become lodged within the airways, lungs, and other soft tissues. The body surrounds these foreign objects with cell clusters to defend itself, and fast-growing malignancies form. Mesothelioma is the combined result of this inflammation, scarring, and DNA damage.
In many environments, it doesn’t take much to disturb asbestos such that fibrous particulates are released. Basic remodeling projects, inadvertent asbestos removal, structural collapse, and even heavy winds, fires, and other natural perils can all release asbestos particulates into the air. In the United States alone, approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. However, it’s important to note that in rare instances, mesothelioma may result from erionite exposure or exposure to a similarly fibrous mineral found in volcanic ash.
Who’s Responsible for Asbestos-Related Injury?
Siding manufacturers and other producers of asbestos-containing materials have long ceased to use asbestos in their products. Although many of these entities have already faced and settled mesothelioma-related claims, liability for continued asbestos damage often falls within the hands of property owners and employers.
For instance, if you own a property with asbestos in its ceilings, you’re responsible for having the ceilings tested for asbestos content and regularly assessing the integrity of this material. Property owners should pay for professional asbestos removal when asbestos degrades and the risk of particulate release rises. Asbestos removal should also be professionally performed before any structural renovations are made. In short, part of your duty of care as a property owner is ongoing asbestos mitigation.
Asbestos disclosures and mitigation are equally important for employers, if not more so. Employees should never be sent into an asbestos-contaminated environment without proper training, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and strategies for preventing or mitigating particulate release. These requirements impact mining operations. However, they are also relevant in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries.
Employers and property owners who fail in their duty of care may be legally liable for all damages sustained due to a mesothelioma diagnosis. Thus, disclosures, training, and mitigation strategies are just as important for protecting financial health as for protecting human lives.
The Short and Long-Term Effects of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a progressive, aggressive cancer with a very bleak long-term prognosis. There is no cure for this disease, and there are limited, effective ways to slow its progression. A mesothelioma diagnosis typically results in sudden and dramatic decreases in both life quality and health. It causes a loss of income due to an inability to work, and the necessary medical treatments lead to excessively high medical bills.
Identifying the source of asbestos exposure is key to holding responsible parties accountable. Whether these are siding or ceiling manufacturers, producers of talc-containing beauty products, employers, or residential property owners, those liable for damages may be required to cover all personal losses. The key to building a solid case lies in hiring a seasoned mesothelioma lawyer who can investigate and document exposure, draw upon expert witness testimony, and leverage medical records to show fault.
Asbestos can also be found in trace amounts in many domestic and imported beauty products and remains undisturbed in numerous residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Given the ongoing risk of asbestos exposure, knowing when to seek legal help is absolutely essential.