Abestos has been used for thousands of years, and the health hazards have been known for almost as long. Back in 100 AD, the Roman Naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote about the respiratory diseases he observed among the slaves who had worked with asbestos.By the 1930s there was a definitive link between asbestos exposure and serious respiratory illnesses. Doctors began warning factory managers, mine owners and asbestos manufacturers of the health risks associated with asbestos. Despite these warnings, executives failed to act and continued to expose their workers to the toxic mineral without protective gear.As more and more employees became ill after asbestos exposure, asbestos manufacturing executives failed to acknowledge the issue and instead chose to cover up the problem. They destroyed doctor’s notes, health reports, and safety memos detailing the dangers of asbestos. Rather than choosing to acknowledge the health risks and provide necessary protective gear, executives offered compensation to employees with health problems linked to asbestos exposure at the workplace. They did this quietly, forcing employees to not disclose the cause of the illness to others.
Over time, labor and trade unions began working for safer working environments for employees in these industries. It was during this time that secret documents revealing massive asbestos cover-ups were exposed, putting major corporations and executives in the spotlight. These secret documents were known as the Sumner Simpson papers, and they provided indisputable evidence that the asbestos industry knew about the health dangers of asbestos exposure without necessary protective gear.
As a result of a working American justice system, the dangers of asbestos exposure were brought to light and subsequent safety regulations were implemented at the federal and state level to ensure a safer working environment for all. Although asbestos is not banned in the United States, progress has been made to raise awareness of the health hazards of asbestos exposure without necessary protective gear.
1. What is asbestos?
"Asbestos" is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally as groups of fibers which can be separated into thin, microscopic threads. These fibers are strong, flexible, heat-resistant, and do not conduct electricity. As a result, asbestos was used in thousands of products throughout the twentieth century in the United States.
There are four types of asbestos which have been used commercially:
- Chrysotile (white) asbestos
- Crocidolite (blue) asbestos
- Amosite (brown) asbestos
- Anthophyllite (gray) asbestos
Asbestos fibers easily break into a dust that is composed of tiny particles that can float in the air and stick to clothing. These fibers can be easily inhaled or swallowed, causing serious health problems.
2. How is asbestos used?
Asbestos was mined and used commercially in North America beginning in the late nineteenth century. Its use became widespread by World War II and continued throughout the 1970s. Asbestos has been used in numerous industries, primarily for purposes of insulation, fireproofing and sound absorption.
For example, the building and construction industry has used it for cements, plastics, insulation, fireproofing, and sound absorption; the automotive industry has used asbestos in brake shoes and clutch pads; and the shipbuilding industry has used asbestos to insulate boilers, steampipes, and hot water pipes.
One study estimated that 3,000 different types of commercial products once contained asbestos. The amount of asbestos in each product varied from as little as one percent to as much as 100 percent. Many older plastics, paper products, brake linings, floor tiles and textile products contain asbestos, as do many heavy industrial products such as sealants, cement pipe, cement sheets, and insulation. For a list of some of these products, click here.
3. How are people exposed to asbestos?
When a product that contains asbestos is cut, sanded, sawed, or otherwise manipulated, microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air in the form of asbestos dust. This dust is then inhaled or ingested by those who come in contact with it. These tiny particles also stick to a person’s clothing, skin, and hair. As a result, anyone else who comes into contact with that person may also be exposed to this dust. Upon inhalation or ingestion, this dust containing asbestos fibers remains in the lungs where it can cause serious disease. Because asbestos fibers are small, light, odorless, colorless and tasteless, they can stay in the air for a long time and are not easily detected.
For more information about asbestos exposure, please visit our pages about products containing asbestos and trades and types of work that put people at risk of asbestos exposure.
4. What are the health risks associated with asbestos exposure?
Exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of several serious diseases. Symptoms of these diseases do not generally appear until between 10 and 40 years after someone is exposed to asbestos.
Mesothelioma — a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen;
Asbestosis — a chronic lung ailment that can produce shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damage; Lung cancer;
Other cancers, such as those of the larynx, oropharynx, gastrointestinal tract, and kidney.
5. How do the effects of asbestos exposure relate to filing a lawsuit?
In the United States legal system, manufacturers, suppliers, sellers, and distributors are under a legal duty to provide safe products and to warn those using their products of any potential dangers associated with them. When a company fails to fulfill that duty, legal liability for injuries caused by such a product may attach. For more information about filing a lawsuit based on asbestos exposure, click here.
6. Is asbestos still used today?
Because of health concerns, all new uses of asbestos in the United States were banned in July 1989. That year, the EPA published Asbestos: Manufacture, Importation, Processing, and Distribution in Commerce Prohibitions, the effect of which was to eventually ban about 94 percent of the asbestos used in the United States (based on 1985 estimates). Most asbestos uses established before that date are still allowed, but are now strictly regulated by the government.
There is an effort in the United States to completely ban the use of any asbestos.
7. How can I identify materials that contain asbestos?
Unless a material is labeled, it is difficult to determine whether it contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If you have any doubts about the material, you should treat it as if it contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. Taking samples yourself is never recommended because if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone.
8. Are there any OSHA standards that cover workers exposed to asbestos as part of their jobs?
Yes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has three standards to protect workers from exposure to asbestos in the workplace: one regulates construction work, including alteration, repair, renovation, and demolition of structures containing asbestos; another covers asbestos exposure during work in shipyards; and the third applies to asbestos exposure in general industry, such as exposure during brake and clutch repair, custodial work, and manufacture of asbestos-containing products.
9. Do current OSHA standards require employers to provide education and training for employees exposed to asbestos?
Yes. In the construction and shipyard industries, employers must provide education and training for employees exposed above a permissible exposure limit (PEL), and for all employees involved in certain identified work classifications. In general industry, employers must provide training to all employees exposed above PELs. Employers must also provide asbestos awareness training to employees who perform housekeeping operations covered by OSHA standards. Employers must place warning labels on all asbestos products, containers, and installed construction materials when feasible.
10. What if OSHA regulations do not apply to my workplace?
The Environmental Protection Agency's "Worker Protection Rule" extends standards implemented by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to state and local employees who perform asbestos work, and who are not covered by the OSHA asbestos standards, or by a state OSHA plan. The "Worker Protection Rule" parallels OSHA requirements and covers medical examinations, air monitoring and reporting, protective equipment, work practices, and record keeping. In addition, many state and local agencies have more stringent standards than those required by the federal government.
11. What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that most often occurs in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, and abdomen. Each year, approximately 3,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Virtually all cases of mesothelioma are linked to asbestos, and symptoms generally appear between 10 and 40 years after an individual was exposed to asbestos.
Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases.
12. What causes mesothelioma?
Nearly all cases of mesothelioma are linked to asbestos exposure. Asbestos was mined and used commercially in North America beginning in the late nineteenth century. Its use became widespread by World War II and continued throughout the 1970s.
13. What types of malignant mesothelioma exist?
There are three primary types of mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma, which is the most common type of mesothelioma, affecting the lining of the lungs and chest cavity; peritoneal mesothelioma, affecting the lining of the abdominal cavity; and pericardial mesothelioma, affecting the sac that surrounds the heart.
14. What are the common signs and symptoms of malignant mesothelioma?
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 10 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, pain in the chest, pleural effusion (fluid surrounding the lung), wheezing, hoarseness, cough, weight loss, abdominal swelling and bowel obstruction. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not hesitate in contacting your physician or health care provider.
15. How is mesothelioma diagnosis achieved?
Mesothelioma diagnosis is often quite difficult, since the symptoms associated with mesothelioma are often similar to those of other, less serious conditions. Generally, a physician will begin with an individual’s medical and asbestos exposure history. After a physical examination is conducted, a physician may perform a variety of tests, including a chest X-ray; lung function tests; a CT scan, MRI, or PET scan. If any abnormalities are detected, such as masses or a large amount of lung fluid, your physician will explore your condition further.
16. What kinds of treatment options are available?
Research and testing continues to be conducted in an effort to find a cure for mesothelioma. Currently, the most common treatments for mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
17. Where can I get more medical information about mesothelioma & mesothelioma diagnosis?
The best source of information is your physician or health care provider. Only they can give you truly personalized information.
There are also a number of other reputable sources for information on the Internet.
18. How do I find a doctor or hospital that can help with mesothelioma?
Since mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, it is advisable that you visit a physician who is a specialist in treating the disease. The lawyers from Simmons Hanly Conroy work closely with mesothelioma specialists across the country, including the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which can help you locate a mesothelioma specialist.
A resource for connecting with medical experts conducting current mesothelioma and asbestos-related research. Founded by the Firm in 2010, the foundation offers financial and other resources to support medical experts and researchers in the pursuit of improved quality of life for mesothelioma patients.
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (The Meso Foundation) is the nation’s leading non-profit mesothelioma advocacy and research organization.
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) is the largest independent asbestos victims’ organization in the U.S. It was founded in 2004 to give asbestos victims and concerned citizens a united voice, to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and to work towards a global asbestos ban. ADAO is dedicated to preventing asbestos-caused diseases through national and international education, advocacy, and community initiatives.
Miles for Meso is a 5K race and fun run and walk for mesothelioma cancer awareness and research. It is an advocacy initiative of the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation. Since launching in 2009, there have been multiple annual Miles for Meso events in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Virgina and Florida. Over $160,000 in proceeds from all the races have gone to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to finding better treatment options for this rare and aggressive cancer.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is one of 11 agencies that compose the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The NCI, established under the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937, is the Federal Government's principal agency for cancer research and training. The National Cancer Act of 1971 broadened the scope and responsibilities of the NCI and created the National Cancer Program. Over the years, legislative amendments have maintained the NCI authorities and responsibilities and added new information dissemination mandates as well as a requirement to assess the incorporation of state-of-the-art cancer treatments into clinical practice.
Our attorneys have represented thousands of individuals with mesothelioma cases and recovered millions of dollars in mesothelioma settlements and verdicts on their behalf.*
We absolutely have the resources and experience to hold asbestos companies and manufacturers accountable for failing to warn their employees and end product users of the dangers of asbestos exposure.
The firm has secured several asbestos verdicts on behalf of our clients. One landmark verdict was for $250 million to Roby Whittington, a retired steel worker from Indiana. Roby was diagnosed with mesothelioma after working at U.S. Steel for 30 years. This verdict stands as the largest asbestos verdict against a single defendant in the history of the litigation.
Simmons Shareholder Perry Browder, who represented Roby, said the verdict sent an important message to large corporations that they will be held accountable for their negligent decisions to use asbestos, despite knowing the dangers.
It’s a message the Firm continues to send today. Two recent success stories involve a $2.86 million verdict for a Delaware factory worker and a $3 million verdict for a New York pipefitter.
Past Mesothelioma Cases: Verdicts & Settlements
- $250 Million Awarded in Mesothelioma Case
- $34.1 Million Awarded to Missouri Resident
- $3 Million Awarded to New York Pipefitter
- $2.86 Million Awarded to Delaware Factory Worker
- $3 Million Awarded to Missouri Dry Wall Worker
- $2.3 Million Awarded to California Shipyard Worker
- $3.65 Million Awarded to NC HVAC/Shipyard Worker
- $2.92 Million Awarded to Nevada Operating Engineer
- $1.67 Million Awarded to 76-year-old Navy Veteran
- $2 Million Awarded to Illinois Powerhouse Worker
- $3.45 Million Awarded to New Jersey Truck Mechanic
- $3.6 Million Awarded to 72-year-old Auto Mechanic
- $2.5 Million Awarded to Iowa Plastics Factory Worker
- $3.9 Million Awarded to 50-year-old Missouri Engineer
- $3 Million Awarded to Illinois Millwright
- $3 Million Awarded to Career Navy Veteran
- $2.85 Million Awarded to Ohio Electrician
- $3 Million Awarded to Idaho Auto Mechanic
- $2 Million Awarded to Georgia Navy Veteran
- $2.3 Million Awarded to Missouri Powerhouse worker
- $2.82 Awarded to 60-year-old Mississippi Mechanic
- $2.1 Million Awarded to Indiana Steelworker
- $3.2 Million Awarded to Illinois Steelworker
- $2 Million Awarded to Florida Navy Boiler Tender
- $3.7 Million Awarded to Illinois HVAC Worker
- $1.86 Million Awarded to 79-year-old Illinois Worker
- $2.4 Million Awarded to Missouri Insulator Worker
- $2.4 Million Awarded to 73-year-old Ohio Mechanic
- $2.5 Million Awarded to Missouri Aircraft Mechani
* Please note that recovery results vary per client. The recovery amounts in each case reflect the specific facts of that case. Further, recovery amounts in past cases are not a guarantee of future results.
Chairman and Founder, John Simmons
Mesothelioma Lawyers: Shareholder/Management
Mesothelioma Lawyers: Shareholder
- Angelides, Nicholas J.
- Cohn, Randy S.
- Cooke, Brian J.
- Dix, Paul
- Epperson, Myles L.
- Garrett, Amy E.
- Goldstein, Benjamin
- Guinn, Christopher R.
- Hampton, Shane F.
- Kerns, Taylor
- Miracle, Trent B.
- Petersen, Matt
- Phillips, Robert W.
- Rosenthal, Deborah
- Schopfer, Melissa Crowe
- Sealey, Drew
- Stewart, G. Michael
- Thompson, Jr., Timothy
Mesothelioma Lawyers: Of Counsel
Mesothelioma Lawyers: Associate
- Barrow, Robert L.
- Carstens, Karoline
- Copple, Brent
- Danzinger, Kenneth P.
- Datrice, Megan
- Dhar, Suvir
- Dickherber, Ryan
- Favilla, Cody
- Foley, Crystal
- Gampp, Todd
- Harashe, Courtney
- Herron, Ron
- Hightower, Jennifer
- Huss, James
- Kiwala, Ryan
- LeCointre, Jean-Michel
- Levy, Chris
- Mengarelli, Martin J.
- Murrie, Andrew S.
- Neilson, Todd
- Richardson, John
- Woodward, Rob
To cure mesothelioma, we need more than a hero. We need a whole team of heroes, working tirelessly to uncover the mysteries behind mesothelioma, to develop more advanced treatments, and, ultimately, to find a way to stop the progression of this devastating disease.By providing funding for cutting-edge research, the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation seeks to support and expand the team of heroes that are currently fighting for this cause. We identify and partner with expert oncologists, researchers, patient caregivers and advocates, hospitals, universities, philanthropic organizations, and others in the ongoing fight against mesothelioma.
Author of 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma
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About Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC
Founded in 1999, Simmons Hanly Conroy is a leading national law firm with a track record for standing up for consumers and workers’ rights. Our lawyers have extensive experience in multiple areas of complex litigation and have represented thousands of individuals and families throughout the country. In the past decade, we have represented thousands of clients across the country and recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements.*
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