You might see often during the commercials of daytime TV shows many advertisements from law firms informing you of their services for various types of diseases or side effects of medical treatments. From personal injuries, transvaginal mesh malpractice, participation in class action lawsuits, to consumer bankruptcy services. But one of the most popular has been from law firms offering to earn someone compensation for suffering from mesothelioma. And for good cause.
Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States, and about 2,500 people die from it. Within the last decade there has been a significant increase in death rates from mesothelioma, and it shows no signs of slowing. Between 1999 and 2015, over 45,000 people have died from it. And the number is expected to grow through 2025.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a hostile type of cancer that develops most commonly in the lining of the lungs as a result of inhaling the dust and fibers of asbestos. It can take 20 to 40 years to develop from the initial exposure and begin causing symptoms, which include painful coughing, shortness of breath, fluid around the lungs, swollen abdomen, chest wall pain, feelings of tiredness, and severe weight loss.
About 60% of those affected with mesothelioma will die within a year of diagnosis. And a five-year relative survival rate after diagnosis is 7%. Much like any cancer treatment, mesothelioma is often treated by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Why the rise of mesothelioma cases?
Many cases in the U.S. can be attributed to the lack of a complete ban on asbestos. There are still many occupational exposures, most notably in the industrial field. Construction, mechanics, and even the military have presented occupational exposure. Because of its valuable properties as a mineral, asbestos has been used in such applications as building and electrical insulation, and still continues to have many widespread uses.
Another major cause of mesothelioma occurred after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. When the Twin Towers were destroyed, many rescue and clean-up workers on scene were exposed to the asbestos of the building and developed long-term effects of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. An estimated 41,000 people were exposed, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Likewise, there have been environmental exposures from significant natural disasters destroying buildings containing asbestos. In the U.S., hurricanes Katrina and Sandy had been implicated as causing asbestos exposure. Many other similar incidents around the world have contributed as well.
What is being done about asbestos exposure?
While fiberglass has mostly replaced asbestos in insulation material, the use of asbestos is still prevalent today in a number of different ways. Today, the official position of the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is that protections and “permissible exposure limits” required by U.S. regulations, while adequate to prevent most asbestos-related non-malignant disease, are not adequate to prevent or protect against asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma.
OSHA has issued advisories regarding minimal exposure limits, but unfortunately even the smallest amount could trigger the onset of mesothelioma. And because it takes so long to develop as a malignant disease, the sufferer may not even be aware of it, or of the exposure in the beginning.
What are my legal options if I have mesothelioma?
As those daytime TV commercials often suggest, if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation from the asbestos companies that put you in harm’s way. The good folks at mesotheliomahelp.org/ have plenty of legal information, as well as more information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure.