Rare, aggressive, and often fatal, malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects tissue known as mesothelium, which lines the lungs, heart, testicles, and abdominal cavity. Exposure to a group of naturally-occurring silicate materials known as asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma.
The disease has an extremely long latency period and as a result, often isn't diagnosed until decades after the initial asbestos exposure. By the time most patients receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, the disease has reached its latest stages. This means the cancer has progressed significantly and treatment options are limited.
Though Alaska is one of the lowest-ranking states for mesothelioma and asbestosis diagnoses and deaths, asbestos has long been used in commercial and industrial applications across the state, and exposure to these deadly minerals can and does occur.
Approximately seven people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
The agency also reports 80 Alaskans died from the disease between 1999 and 2015.
Being diagnosed with cancer can turn a person's entire world upside down, especially when the cancer in question is as aggressive and deadly as mesothelioma. Fortunately, despite the state's rural nature, Alaska has a variety of doctors and other resources to help support patients with the disease. Also, if you believe your mesothelioma was caused by occupational exposure to asbestos, you may be entitled to compensation. Here's what you need to know.
Industries in Alaska Associated with Asbestos Exposure
Despite ranking 43rd in the nation for mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths, many industries in Alaska relied on the use of asbestos. Additionally, Alaska boasts naturally-occurring asbestos deposits throughout the state, including in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Kobuk Valley National Park areas; along the Yukon River; and in the Panhandle region.
Examples of Alaskan industries that might have exposed workers to asbestos include:
Alaska contains large amounts of natural asbestos and as a result, much of the gravel used in construction projects may be contaminated with it. Additionally, asbestos was commonly used in building materials such as insulation, siding, ceiling and floor tiles, joint compound, roof shingles and flashing, and pipe cement manufactured prior to 1980.
Asbestos is used in a variety of manufacturing applications due to its strength and high-heat resistance.
Oil and Gas Refining
Asbestos's ability to resist high temperatures and flames also made it a popular material in the oil and gas refining sector. Materials containing asbestos were used extensively throughout the oil and gas refining process.
Many of Alaska's power plants and power stations had materials containing asbestos in buildings, as well as in equipment used by workers. Once again, this is due to the mineral's resistance to heat, flame, and electricity.
Also prized for its strength, asbestos was widely used in the building materials for constructing ships and other sea-faring vessels.
Alaska is home to multiple military bases, which frequently had asbestos-containing materials in a number of applications. As a result, Alaskan veterans may face an increased risk of mesothelioma.
Companies in Alaska Known for Using Asbestos
These companies have a long history of using asbestos in their building materials, equipment, or processes; or were the subject of asbestos-related claims, complaints, or lawsuits. People employed by these companies might have suffered exposure. Their families may also be at risk, as deadly asbestos fibers can be brought home on a worker's clothing or shoes.
- Acme Brick Company
- Alaska Insulation
- Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company
- Alaska Native Service Hospital
- Alaska Pipeline Service Company
- American Oil Company
- Arco Chemical Company
- Arctic Surplus Salvage Yard
- Aurora Energy
- Beluga Power Station
- Fairbanks Exploration Company
- Fort Richardson
- Golden Valley Electric Power Plant
- Hope Brick Works
- Ketchikan Pulp Company
- Kodiak Naval Station
- Mallow Construction Company
- Nome Mining Company
- Seward Marine Industrial Center
- Seward Ship’s Drydock
- Tesoro Alaska Company
- University of Alaska Power Plant
Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma Cases in Alaska
The statute of limitations determines just how long a potential plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit. These laws vary dramatically by state and type of case.
In Alaska, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years. This means a plaintiff must file a lawsuit within two years of receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis. Failing to act within the statute of limitations can have devastating consequences. Cases filed after the statute of limitations expired are usually thrown out—and the potential plaintiff loses the ability to seek compensation for their illness.
Mesothelioma Doctors and Treatment Centers in Alaska
Because of its rural location and low population, Alaska lacks a dedicated mesothelioma treatment center. However, mesothelioma patients in Alaska can seek treatment at the Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage or through the Katmai Oncology Group, which has locations in Anchorage and Soldotna. Additionally, some mesothelioma patients travel out of state for their care.
Prominent medical oncologists in Alaska include Dr. Jeanne E. Anderson, Dr. Ellen H. Chirichella, Dr. Shannon L. Smiley, and Dr. Dennis D. Beckworth with the Katmai Oncology Group.
Mesothelioma Support Groups in Alaska
Alaska has a number of counseling options available for mesothelioma patients. Additionally, cancer support groups may also be available through your local health care system.
- Cancer Connection AK. The group offers health and wellness resources for cancer patients in southeast Alaska, including support groups, educational workshops, and more. Visit its website for additional information.
- American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS's Anchorage office can help connect patients to cancer counseling, support groups, and other resources. To learn more, call 907-277-8696.
Consult an Experienced Mesothelioma Attorney
If you were recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be struggling under the weight of unexpected medical expenses. However, if your cancer was caused by occupational exposure to asbestos, you could be entitled to compensation for damages.
The skilled mesothelioma attorneys with Neblett, Beard & Arsenault will review the facts of your case to determine if an employer or third party may be responsible. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule an appointment for a free initial case analysis. Our firm works on a contingency basis, so we won't charge for our services unless we resolve the case in your favor.