Despite the fact that widespread use of asbestos and asbestos-laden products was largely abandoned in the late 1970s, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the substance, it continues to be a problem. While the EPA’s ban on asbestos was eventually overturned as unconstitutional, public awareness made continued use of asbestos difficult.
According to a recent article from Huffington Post, we are still seeing a great deal of asbestos concerns across the country, and there are no signs the problem is going away any time soon. In the past month, there have been reports of a veterans’ medical center in Denver having asbestos exposure problems, contamination at an elementary school, and contaminated drinking water due to asbestos pollution in a river.
At the same time, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined a construction company and roofing company $2 million. The reason for these fines is that the agency concluded these companies had instructed workers to remove asbestos without proper training or certifications, and they did not provide workers with proper safety equipment, including ventilators, to prevent asbestos inhalation.
As our Boston asbestos exposure attorneys know, the danger of asbestos is that, once the fibers are inhaled, they can become embedded in a layer of tissue known as the mesothelium. Once there, they are essentially impossible to detect. The only feasible way for a doctor to detect the fibers would be to cut out a portion of the lungs, abdominal tissue, or other organs, and this is not something a doctor would do absent any symptoms of mesothelioma.
After the fibers are present in the victim, over the next 20 to 50 years, they can metastasize into a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. By the time a victim first experiences symptoms of mesothelioma, he or she may have only a very short time left to live. The vast majority of those diagnosed with the deadly disease die within a couple years of finding out they are sick, if not within a matter of months. In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos can also cause lung cancer and scarring of the lung tissues, known as asbestosis.
Asbestosis is disease that presents similar to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and, while it is not generally fatal with medical intervention and monitoring, it can seriously reduce quality of life for a victim and cause a significant amount of pain and suffering.
In the case of the companies that were fined $2 million, OSHA says they primarily used Spanish-speaking workers and did not tell them of the dangers they were facing. Many of these workers were only in the United States temporarily. These companies took advantage of the H-2B visa program. This visa program allows companies to bring foreign workers to the United States on a temporary basis to work on limited duration projects. Once they were done with the job, they would be sent back to their home countries after being exposed to deadly asbestos fibers. There were also allegations they threatened to fire workers if they spoke to OSHA officials.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
New Asbestos Threats Affect Vets, Workers, Children and Drinking Water, August 18, 2015, Huffington Post, by Alex Formuzis
More Blog Entries:
Can Family of Asbestos Workers Sue for Illness?, September 15, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog