Mesothelioma is a highly aggressive type of cancer that attacks the membrane that lines the lungs, abdomen, and heart—called the mesothelium. The only known, proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Over 125 million people suffer from this disease, and researchers believe that approximately 90 percent of patients were exposed to asbestos in the workplace.
Each year, about 2,500 mesothelioma-related deaths occur in the U.S., and it is estimated that 20 million people are at risk of developing this cancer during their lifetime. Workers who have faced the greatest exposure to asbestos include salt miners, construction workers, factory workers, shipyard workers, and veterans of the U.S. military—a particularly high-risk group, especially those in the Navy.
If you worked with asbestos or near this material while performing your job, and you now suffer from mesothelioma, you may have a right to compensation for your illness. Hiring a skilled, experienced personal injury lawyer can help determine if you are eligible for damages due to your asbestos exposure.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral, but the word actually refers to six “naturally occurring” fibrous minerals that are soft and flexible but resistant to fire, heat, and electricity. Asbestos fibers are microscopic, but they are strong and withstand most chemical breakdowns. Thus, they make good insulators and can also be blended with a variety of consumer products, including plastic, cloth, and paper, to make them stronger. Unfortunately, asbestos is also an extremely toxic substance.
Until asbestos use was regulated in 1985, this material was quite popular and used to manufacture a variety of important products. Almost all construction job sites used asbestos in building materials such as insulation, plaster, ceiling tiles, roofing, and pipe fittings. Additionally, over 300 U.S. military products used asbestos, most specifically in battleships. Consequently, veterans who worked in the Navy and in the shipyards have the highest number of cases of mesothelioma, and 30 percent of those who die from mesothelioma in the U.S. are veterans.
Asbestos exposure may also affect military personnel who served in Iraq when fibers were released into the environment after old buildings were damaged or destroyed. Although asbestos has been banned in more than 50 countries, 2012 still saw over 1,600 tons of this material imported by the U.S.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
When a person working with or around these asbestos fibers breathes in or swallows asbestos particles, it can lead to mesothelioma. However, because this disease has a long latency period, symptoms of this type of cancer may not present for up to 50 years after exposure. It is difficult for doctors to diagnose this disease for three main reasons:
- Symptoms of mesothelioma can mimic other conditions. For example, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, or the flu may all have symptoms similar to mesothelioma. Other signs that might imitate other conditions include:
- Wheezing or a dry cough
- Weakness in the muscles
- Fever or night sweats
- Fluid around the lungs
- Mesothelioma doesn’t develop and advance as a tumor. Only when mesothelioma has metastasized into an organ does a doctor usually find it.
- It can take decades for a patient to present symptoms of mesothelioma.
It is important to let your doctor know of any asbestos exposure during your life, so he can watch for symptoms and be able to diagnose the disease early. Typically, mesothelioma is discovered by accident when a doctor sees something on an x-ray or receives the results from a blood test.
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or you suspect a loved one of suffering from this disease, it is important to contact the attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault. You have limited time to take action to protect your right to fair compensation from those responsible for your condition. If you are considering a claim, we can guide you through the legal process and handle all the necessary paperwork. Contact Neblett, Beard & Arsenault to schedule a consultation today.