The only proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, either inhaled or ingested usually at the workplace or at home, and can take as long as 10 to 50 years to develop after exposure. The link between mesothelioma and asbestos is so strong that it is considered a signature disease. In other words, if an individual develops mesothelioma it is presumed to have been caused by asbestos exposure. In most cases, a long history of exposure to asbestos exists. Asbestos has been used throughout history, yet it was not mined for commercial use until the 19th century.
During World War II, in the 1940s, the commercial use of asbestos dramatically increased in the United States, especially in shipyards and factories manufacturing asbestos-containing products.
Many companies knew the hazards of asbestos exposure yet did not warn those working with or using their products of any potential dangers associated with them. They knowingly put these people at risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma. Many individuals who are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease are able to file a claim or lawsuit against these companies.
Today, asbestos still has not been banned in the United States. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have established very strict regulations and agree there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos to prevent the development of mesothelioma. The medical and scientific community agree that there is a dose-response relationship between the amount of exposure to asbestos an individual has and their increased risk of developing mesothelioma. Typically, the amount of exposure necessary for mesothelioma is less than the exposure required for asbestosis or lung cancer. Asbestos exposure affects people differently. This is known in the medical community as individual susceptibility. This is significant because some individuals may have substantially less exposure to asbestos than others and they still develop mesothelioma. For example, a wife who launders her husband’s clothing that is contaminated with asbestos may develop mesothelioma while her husband may not, even though he worked directly with a product that contains asbestos. In fact, most individuals who are exposed to asbestos do not develop an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.
People are typically exposed to asbestos through their own occupation or by secondhand exposure, however, it is also possible to be exposed to asbestos via fiber drift, which occurs when the asbestos is released into the air from a factory or plant making asbestos products and floats in the wind affecting people that live nearby.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which is composed of millions of microscopic fibers. Asbestos appears in different types and colors, including blue, brown, white and green. There are six different types of asbestos: Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Tremolite, Anthophyllite, and Actinolite. Chysotile or serpentine asbestos, because of its serpent-like appearance, is the most common form and makes up approximately 95% of all asbestos that was used commercially. Asbestos is heat resistant and indestructible. These properties made it useful to the United States Military, despite the hazards and risks of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases later in life. In the mid-19th Century, manufacturers and companies realized the properties of asbestos could be useful because it is heat resistant, indestructible, and increases the tensile strength of certain products when included in the manufacturing process. The discovery of these useful properties resulted in asbestos being used in many products by the United States Military. This is especially true in shipyards, Naval Bases, Air Force Bases, training centers, aboard Navy ships and submarines, in military equipment and vehicles, and in barracks and sleeping quarters.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer, you may be eligible for compensation.