Where is Asbestos Found?
Individuals working or attending school in a building that was damaged after a storm or following maintenance work should know about potential asbestos concerns. When storms damage buildings, especially buildings built prior to the 1970s, the likelihood of asbestos exposure from damaged roofs, ceilings, and insulation becomes harmful because asbestos becomes dangerous when it is disturbed and becomes airborne.
Before the 1970s, asbestos was routinely used in house and building construction because of the strength and fire resistance of its fibers. Vinyl sheet flooring and floor tiles, ceiling tiles, wall and ceiling textures, joint compounds, oil and coal furnaces, and home siding may contain asbestos. Also, potting soil that contains vermiculite likely contains asbestos, as well.
Asbestos concerns in United States school buildings are of significant concern given that nearly half of all schools were built between 1950 and 1969, when asbestos materials were most popularly used in construction. Teachers and students are at increased risk for asbestos exposure problems, which includes increased risks for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other serious lung conditions.
During most of the twentieth century, asbestos was used as an insulator and fireproofing material and was also combined with other materials to add its heat- and fire-resistant properties to construction materials and fabrics. Asbestos deteriorates over time, which enables asbestos dust to enter the air, becoming airborne. In this state, asbestos may be inhaled.
Asbestos is a natural occurring mineral that is a known carcinogen. Issues associated with exposure to asbestos may go undetected for decades and the very small fibers that embed in the body—typically the lungs—encourage the growth of tumors. Specifically, the carcinogen leads to lung cancer and mesothelioma. The American Lung Association points out that 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by occupational exposure.
Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report revealing the mesothelioma cancer deaths increased from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015. Of 682 individuals who were 25 to 44 years of age died of mesothelioma. Another 16,914 people ages 75 to 84 years of age died due to mesothelioma-related issues. The greatest increase was recorded in individuals who were older than 85 years of age.
An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk assessment study conducted in the early 1980s found that approximately 1,000 early fatalities related to asbestos exposure would take place in the next three decades and most—90 percent—would be diagnosed in individuals exposed as school children who would not know about asbestos concerns in their environment.
A study conducted by the United Kingdom’s Committee on Carcinogenicity found that a five-year-old child’s lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is five times greater than that of a 30-year-old adult exposed to asbestos.
The parents and teachers in Huntington Beach, California were shocked when they learned that contractors “carelessly” removed asbestos materials from a number of schools in 2014. The Ocean View School District significantly violated EPA regulations by not using proper safeguards to ensure students and teachers were not exposed to asbestos. Also—another EPA violation—the district did not warn parents and teachers of asbestos concerns before the removal. Two elementary school classrooms contained asbestos levels in excess of federal safety standards. The district closed the school when the asbestos problems were being addressed. The district is now facing a lawsuit brought by the families of students who are holding the district’s elected leaders, other school officials, and contractors accountable for neglecting to protect children from asbestos concerns during the removal.
Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm with decades of experience representing clients in asbestos and mesothelioma litigation. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a mesothelioma lawsuit.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma Risks
Environmental regulations banned asbestos use in most industrial and residential applications; however, asbestos may still be found in older buildings.
Exposure to prolonged or high levels of asbestos may lead to various forms of lung cancer such as mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the pleura in the lungs. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people who worked in industrial settings for years where asbestos was often used and also attacks the abdomen, testicles, and heart.
Even if an individual has not been directly exposed to asbestos, a related disease may be acquired by being near a person exposed to the carcinogen. For example, family members of many workers exposed to asbestos have, over time, developed many of the same symptoms and face similar risks that are caused by asbestos exposure. Those living near locations where asbestos was used in the manufacture of asbestos products face exposure risks if asbestos is found in soil deposits. Asbestos when airborne may also become embedded in the soil, leading to risks for people living in the area.
The effects of mesothelioma are not reversible; symptoms may take between 10 and 50 years after exposure to develop. A person’s risk factor is more significant the longer the exposure to asbestos; however, simply a few months of exposure might significantly raise a person’s risk for the deadly disease. Early signs of potential adverse effects related to asbestos exposure include shortness of breath, feeling tired, or a dry cough. As the disease progresses, coughs typically become more persistent and continue to worsen. Chest pain and frequent lung infections are also characteristic symptoms of potential lung cancers, including mesothelioma, due to exposure to asbestos.
Less than 33 percent of people who are 75 years of age or older when diagnosed with mesothelioma live for more than one year.
Legal Help for Individuals Harmed by Exposure to Asbestos
If you or someone you know was exposed to asbestos and have suffered lung cancer, mesothelioma, pleural disease, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related diseases, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP for a free, no obligation case evaluation. Fill out the online contact form to have an attorney contact you, or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529.