This year millions of people have displaced from their homes due to hurricanes, forest fires and other natural disasters. While many think of the obvious problems such as loss of life, property, and personal injury, there is another danger in the form of asbestos exposure. This is not only true in the South and Southwestern United States, but also in areas such as Boston with many older buildings that were constructed at a time when asbestos was used in just about every aspect of construction.
Asbestos was use heavily from the 1800s through the early 1980s. It is actually a naturally occurring mineral made up of six silica elements, and has been used by humans for thousands of years, but it was not until the Industrial Revolution that it was used so heavily. The reason it was used so heavily at first, was because it has the somewhat remarkable ability to resist heat, fire, caustic chemicals, and electricity. It was then discovered the inert nature of asbestos could also make it seemingly perfect to use a bonding agent in glues and other construction adhesives and joining compounds. It is seemingly perfect and not actually perfect because the fibers are deadly if inhaled or ingested.
As our Boston mesothelioma lawyers can explain, asbestos and asbestos products are deadly to those working with them, including drilling or any other activity the involves creating dust because it is the dust that carries the fibers in the air. Once the asbestos material is sealed into place, it was generally safe for the occupants of the building. Once it starts to break down it becomes very dangerous again. When asbestos is capable of being crushed with the power of a human hand, it is called friable asbestos and it is most dangerous. As noted by Oregon State University, sprayed on asbestos insulation is very friable and thus very dangerous, but floor tiles are generally not friable.
Failure to Warn of a Known Danger
The general public had very little idea about the dangers of asbestos. The asbestos industry was very well aware of the dangers of asbestos, but the industry took great steps to hide this information. The industry as a whole was making a lot of money off the mining, processing, and sale of asbestos and asbestos products and didn’t want the public, including their own workers, to know that asbestos causes cancer.
The most common type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos is mesothelioma. This is a cancer that often occurs in the lungs, but it is not what we typically call lung cancer when thinking of the type of cancer that smokers get. That type of cancer that is more properly defined as small cell carcinoma or non-small cell carcinoma, and is much more common than the relatively rare form of cancer known as malignant mesothelioma. This type of cancer only occurs after exposure to asbestsos as far as doctors and researchers have seen.
These companies were able to hide the dangers of asbestos for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is that people who inhale or ingest the deadly asbestos fibers generally do not get sick for a long period of time following initial exposure. The amount of time it takes for a patient to become noticeably sick with symptoms is 20 to 50 years with 40 years being the national average. Once plaintiff has chest pain and shortness of breath and goes to a doctor, plaintiff is typically told they only have a year of so left to live.
These asbestos firms were simply not warning workers or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when it was formally established in the 1970s. This failure to warn of a known danger could be the basis for filing one of the major claims in a Boston mesothelioma lawsuit. This means that defendant knew or should have known their products were very dangerous and did nothing to warn or potential claimants.
As if this was not bad enough, we have even seen cases where asbestos manufactures committed outright fraud by telling members of the general public that their products and all asbestos is safe. Once asbestos was proven to be unsafe, some unscrupulous asbestos makers took their dangerous products off the market long enough to re-brand their products as safe alternatives to asbestos when they knew that was certainly not the truth.
The problem with hurricanes and even normal renovations of these old properties is that when the asbestos gets disturbed, it once again becomes very dangerous as it will emit dust laden with deadly asbestos fibers. When a landowner suspects there is asbestos, and plans to do demolition or renovation work that will disturb the sealed asbestos, a licensed asbestos abatement professional must be called in to do an inspection. This involves sending the samples to a materials testing lab for microscopic analysis to determine if asbestos fibers are present, and if so, what type of asbestos they are dealing with.
At this point, they would need to get an asbestos abatement firm to submit a plan to the local health department and begin work only after approval. All work must be done in a careful manner to protect the workers, other residents, and the community at large from asbestos exposure. When a natural disaster or even a man made one hits, none of the protections exist.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
When is Asbestos Dangerous?, Oregon State University
More Blog Entries:
Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog