While most people in the United States are now aware of the dangers of asbestos, many do not really know what it is or where it came from. First of all, asbestos in a pure form is not a man- made substance. It is actually considered a naturally occurring mineral that is comprised of six distinct silica elements. There are various different types of asbestos, but their differences primarily involve the different minerals and other elements that are attached to the asbestos.
It has been used for thousands of years, as it has a natural ability to resist heat, fire, caustic chemicals and electricity. However, it wasn’t until the mid 1850s that asbestos-laden products were being produced in vast quantities. With the need for all that raw asbestos came the need for major mining operations, and that need was filled by a firm called W.R. Grace and Co. This was technically called a vermiculite mine, but, in reality, vermiculite was laden with asbestos at that time, even though the company said it was a safe alternative to asbestos when they knew it wasn’t. This giant mine was located in Libby, Montana, and, as a result of its presence, thousands of people have become sick and died as a result of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. As our Boston asbestos exposure attorneys can explain, one major illness caused by exposure to asbestos other than mesothelioma is known as asbestosis. Asbestosis occurs when the deadly asbestos fibers become lodged in the protective layer of tissues that lines most organs in the body. This layer of tissue is called the mesothelium, where mesothelioma gets its name.
In the case of mesothelioma, the fibers metastasize into the cancer, typically over a period of 20 to 50 years. However, in the case of asbestosis, the fibers become lodged in the protective layer of tissue in the lungs and cause microscopic tears. There is no way for the body to remove the fibers, so it tries to heal by forming scar tissue. As more and more of this scar tissue builds up, it begins to obstruct the airway, causing the painful condition which is compared to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is often caused by years of smoking.
In Libby, not only was the W.R. Grace company causing a lot of the destruction to the community, over 1,000 victims of asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diseases filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the state and state health officials caused them to suffer irreparable harm, as they did not stop the mine from poisoning people or tell the people of the town that they were literally being killed by working and living in close proximity to the massive vermiculite mine.
This lawsuit had been ongoing for quite some time and has become an even bigger issue now that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is no longer going to be paying under the EPA Super Fund program to clean up the town. This lawsuit has now been settled by an agreement from the state to pay victims $25 million, according to a recent news article from Insurance Journal.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Montana to Pay $25M to Asbestos Victims Under Settlements, January 23, 2017, Insurance Journal
More Blog Entries:
New Effort to Strengthen Asbestos Litigation, June 28, 2016, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog