According to a recent article from the Buffalo News, the national average for asbestos-related deaths is 4.9 per 100,000 people. While the term asbestos deaths can include those caused by asbestosis, lung cancer, or serious respiratory illness, the vast majority of asbestos-related deaths are caused by malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is rare form of cancer caused almost exclusively by exposure to deadly asbestos fibers. The fibers become trapped in a layer of tissue known as mesothelium, where they can develop into the deadly form of cancer after a period of 20 to 50 years; however, it can form in less time in some cases. Once a person is diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, they usually only have a year or so to live, and the worst part is, they generally had no idea they were sick prior to learning they have cancer.
In some areas, the rate is higher than others, and we could be dealing with individual cities within the same state. For example, the asbestos-related death rate in New York state is 4.4 percent, which is below the national average, but the death rate in Buffalo is 14.5 percent, which is nearly 10 points above the national average.
While there are various factors that could contribute to the higher rates in one particular area, the main reason is that the city historically was a major site of heavy industry during much of the last century. Asbestos was used during virtually every aspect of industry. Asbestos was first used due to its ability to naturally resist fire, heat, caustic chemicals and electricity. It is a naturally occurring element, and humans started to gather it thousands of years ago for these beneficial purposes. Not only do we have historical evidence of such use, we have historical records of people becoming sick and dying from asbestos exposure, even though they had no concept of cancer or mesothelioma tumors at that time.
However, it was during the industrial revolution in Western Europe and the Untied States, that asbestos was heavily mined and heavily used. It was not the ability to resist heat, fire, caustic chemicals and electricity that made asbestos so useful, but rather the ability it had to serve as material binding agent. Asbestos could be used in glues, plastic cement, dry wall joining compound, and even as carpet backing, tile adhesive, and many other uses in residential construction and commercial construction.
Much like the early medical scholars, the companies that mined and used asbestos were well aware of the dangers it posed to workers and those who come in contact with the deadly fibers. However, they took great efforts to prevent the general public from learning of the dangers of asbestos. Some of the worst offenders even produced products they knew to contain deadly asbestos fibers and marketed it as a safe alternative to asbestos.
This is the reason that Boston asbestos injury attorneys are able to obtain high verdicts, including punitive damages in cases where that is an appropriate remedy. While the standard measure of damages is compensatory damages, in some cases, the jury can send a message to the defendant and others who acted in the same reckless manner that this type of conduct won’t be tolerated in our society.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Massachusetts, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Local asbestos deaths far above national average, environmental group says, December 17, 2015, Buffalo News, by Thomas J. Prohaska
More Blog Entries:
Asbestos In City Buildings Poses Risk, August 12, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Layers Blog