Asbestos-related health risks were discovered as early as the 1930s, yet usage in industrial occupations, insulation, and building homes continued into the 1980s. As a result, millions were exposed to this carcinogenic substance – workers, their family members, and those in homes made with this material.
However, discovery of asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, occurs decades after exposure – now direct and second hand. Yet, as employers, mining companies, and manufacturers over a 50-year period knowingly put millions at risk, roughly 3,000 individuals find they have an asbestos-related illness, while 10,000 per year die from such conditions.
By the 1970s, use of asbestos was prohibited in workplaces. This decision came too late, as workers in a range of industrial occupations around the middle of the 20th century were already regularly exposed, particularly in mines, shipyards, railroads, power plants, and construction sites. Those at a greater risk were often:
- Furnace technicians
- Construction workers
- Shipyard workers
- Railway workers
- Pipe fitters
The oil and gas industry proved to be an exception to this rule. Workers continued to be exposed until 1989, as offshore drilling companies claimed the government’s restrictions did not apply to oil rigs and barges.
As a result, an influx of drilling-related lawsuits began in 2009. Employees in this field before 1989 handled loose asbestos as part of a standard procedure to cool the drill bit and flush out debris. Its heat-resistant and bonding properties made it ideal as a drilling additive, and a result, workers mixed it directly into the mud without wearing protective or safety gear.
As well, oil and gas workers may have been given safety clothing insulated with asbestos to prevent fire-related damages on the job. Because of this, ripped garments put these workers in direct contact with the substance.
Along these lines, after asbestos-related risks became well known, OSHA advised workers in these conditions to have safety equipment and respirators to continue doing their jobs. Unbeknownst to these employees, commonly-available respirators or safety equipment provided did not always protect effectively, and many entered these worksites believing they were fully shielded against this toxic material.
While asbestos-related illnesses associated with occupations have been known for decades, secondary exposure started coming to light in recent years. Asbestos sticking to clothing, skin, or hair ended up getting transferred from the workplace to homes, thus increasing the percentage of people exposed significantly. Common scenarios have included:
- Wives and children of shipyard workers later developing asbestos-related illnesses.
- Communities near asbestos mines, manufacturing plants, or building containing the material. Those living nearby or working in these conditions were constantly exposed to the particles in the air.
- Areas hit with large-scale disasters and the extensive cleanups that follow. Workers or civilians may experience worsened respiratory symptoms years later.
In spite of its well-known hazards, asbestos has not been banned in the U.S. and Canada, and millions continue to be exposed:
- The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, along with its subsequent cleanup, is thought to have put cleanup workers and residents directly in contact with this carcinogen. In fact, many of these workers developed respiratory symptoms over the past decade.
- Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans allegedly put residents who stayed behind and cleanup workers in contact with asbestos.
- Companies across the U.S. continue to fail safety inspections over asbestos-related issues.
- When asbestos are removed, the company contracted to do the work may not be licensed to complete the procedure, may not remove them correctly, or may mishandle the material.
- Millions of homes in the U.S. still have loose-fill insulation, a material containing asbestos, in their attics.
- When a structure contains asbestos, employees, homeowners, or renters may be misinformed about its safety. In these cases, building owner or landlord tell those working or living there that there are no hazards, when, in fact, those inside are inhaling or exposed to particles.
Asbestos exposure is associated with multiple illnesses, all of which may take at least a decade after contact to surface:
Mesothelioma: A fatal cancer of the mesothelium, or pleura, the protective lining around most of the body’s internal organs.
Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer: A cancer resulting from inhaling asbestos.
Asbestosis: A scarring of the lungs that restricts breathing. Cases are cancerous or non-cancerous, with studies linking the condition to later development of mesothelioma.
Silicosis: An incurable lung disease associated with inhaling small, abrasive particles.
Those with any of these conditions experience extreme, incapacitating pain and see their quality of life deteriorate over time.
Connecticut has an estimated 600 locations where people have been exposed to asbestos. This includes a range of industrial sites to older school buildings, insurance companies, and even a restaurant. A large percentage of known places have been in the state’s cities.
However, the state does not have a statute of limitations specifically concerning asbestos exposure and related illnesses. Instead, these cases come under personal injury law, which sets the deadline at two years from discovery of the disease or three years from exposure.
Filing a Lawsuit
Victims of direct or secondary asbestos exposure or their family members have filed thousands of lawsuits against manufacturers, employers, and landlords over the years. These have typically been product liability, wrongful death, or class action cases at the state level. Plaintiffs have sought out compensation for medical bills, lost wages, decreased quality of life, and punitive damages.
Those considering filing such a lawsuit are recommended to do the following before contacting a lawyer:
- Get a diagnosis supported by medical records and documents.
- Determine where and when you could have been exposed.
- Identify the names of companies you worked for around these times.
- Write down names of those who would’ve been exposed.
Trantolo & Trantolo’s team of personal injury lawyers handles cases concerning asbestos exposure. Employers knowingly kept workers unprotected and in the dark about asbestos’ hazards for decades, and if you have been diagnosed with a related illness, have our lawyers fight for justice on your behalf.