Only two states in the nation have a rate of asbestos-related cancer deaths that exceed 20 deaths per million people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s malignant mesothelioma mortality report. One state is Washington, with a rate of 20.10 per million people, and the other state is Maine, with a rate of 22.06 mesothelioma-related deaths per million people each year. This makes Maine the state with the highest rate of asbestos-related cancer deaths in the nation.
Given this risk, it is important for all Mainers to know about the risk of mesothelioma from asbestos exposure and what you can do if you or a loved one is diagnosed with this devastating disease.
Asbestos Exposure in Maine
Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring fibers that were often used for insulation and other purposes because of their heat-resistant properties. The health risks associated with asbestos have been known since at least 1918; yet, asbestos continued to be widely used through much of the 20th century. Today, it is regulated, but not banned, in the United States.
Asbestos was used in many different industries across the country. In Maine, those industries include:
- Chemical plants
- Paper mills
- Iron foundries
- Navy bases
- Power plants
Maine has a proud naval and shipbuilding history that dates back to colonial times. This history includes several sites where people may have been exposed to asbestos, including:
- The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. This naval shipyard began making ships for England when the colonies were still part of the British Empire. It proudly built ships for the colonists during the American Revolution and later began specializing in submarines. In 1994, it was put on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list as a dangerously contaminated site. Today, asbestos is still being cleaned up at the shipyard and the shipyard remains active in overhauling nuclear-powered submarines.
- Bath Iron Works. Bath Iron Works began operations in Bath, Maine, in 1884. Today, Bath Iron Works is part of General Dynamics Marine Systems. The shipyard designs, builds, and supports vessels for the U.S. Navy. Shipbuilders, ship repairers, and others who worked here from the late 1950s through the mid-1980s may have been exposed to asbestos.
- The Brunswick Naval Air Station. This was a newer naval operation that began operations in 1943. It ceased operations in 2011, but clean-up continued on the site after its closing.
The risks presented by asbestos are not limited to shipbuilders in Maine.
Other Exposure Risks in Maine
Maine has one of the oldest housing inventories in the nation. 31 percent of homes in Maine were built before 1950. Therefore, they are more likely to have asbestos in their insulation, shingles, and wallboard. When these homes are demolished or renovated, the asbestos found in the homes’ insulation can be dislodged, become airborne, be inhaled, and cause mesothelioma decades after exposure.
Maine workers may also be exposed to asbestos at paper mills. Some of the equipment used in paper mills, such as drying machines, talc, and sandpaper backing may contain asbestos. While many paper mills have closed in Maine in recent years due to a decreased demand for paper, some are still operational and workers who were exposed to asbestos in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s may just now be being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Other Maine industries such as chemical plants, power plants, and iron foundries also used equipment and materials that may have contained asbestos. Workers in these industries, like workers in shipbuilding, the Navy, and construction, face the health risks of asbestos exposure.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can cause irritation and scarring in the pleural membranes around the lungs and other internal organs. This can damage the cells and, over many years, result in mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a serious form of cancer. The majority of mesothelioma cases are not diagnosed until patients have already reached advanced stages of the disease and the prognoses are often discouraging. However, if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, now is not the time to give up hope. Instead, it is time to realistically prepare for the future by understanding your medical and legal options.
Medical Treatment for Mesothelioma in Maine
It is important to pursue treatment for mesothelioma as soon as possible after your diagnosis. Your doctor will discuss all of your treatment options with you so that you can make an informed decision about what actions to take.
If you are looking for mesothelioma treatment in Maine, you might consider contacting:
- Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute in Scarborough
- Eastern Maine Medical Center Cancer Care in Brewer
- Mercy Hospital in Portland
- Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor
- VA Medical Center in Togus
One of the Maine doctors who works with mesothelioma patients is Dr. Seth Blank at the Maine Medical Center.
Additionally, some Mainers with mesothelioma choose to receive treatment at Dana Farber or Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Mesothelioma can be a devastating diagnosis, and it is important to consider your emotional needs as well as your physical needs. You may want to join a support group so that you can connect with other people who are going through similar experiences. In Maine, you have three different options when it comes to joining support groups. You can join a group:
- In person. Many hospitals, including Maine Medical Center and Eastern Maine Medical Center, have cancer support groups. Additionally, if you travel to Boston, Brigham & Women’s Hospital has a specific mesothelioma orientation support group for people who are newly diagnosed with the disease and a support group for family members.
- By phone. Organizations such as the Mesothelioma Foundation and the Cancer Support Community offer telephone-based support groups.
- Online. There are various internet-based support groups available for people with mesothelioma. This includes Facebook groups, Cancer Support Community groups, and MD Junction groups.
You may also decide that more than one of these options are right for you.
Legal Help for Mainers With Mesothelioma
Your medical care is critically important, and so too is your legal care. Mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure, and you may have the right to bring a lawsuit against the company that failed to protect you from exposure to receive compensation for this serious illness.
Your time to file a mesothelioma lawsuit in Maine is limited by the state statute of limitations. In most cases you have six years from the time of your diagnosis, or two years from the time of your loved one’s mesothelioma-related death, to file a case.
However, you should not wait that long to learn more about your rights and to make plans for your family’s future. Now is the time to make sure that your family is protected. You can do that by contacting our experienced mesothelioma lawyers today for a free consultation.
Call us directly at 318.588.6303 or contact us online.
Our Louisiana-based law firm offers a free initial consultation, and you will not pay us anything until you make a recovery. Our firm has many years of experience handling mesothelioma cases across the country, and we will come to you in Maine to provide you with the best possible representation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that our fee will be an agreed-upon percentage of your recovery and that you will not pay any upfront legal costs.
You and your family deserve peace of mind during this difficult time. Please contact us today, or download a free copy of our report, Understanding Your Rights After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis, to learn more about how we can help you after a mesothelioma diagnosis in Maine.