When it comes to providing care to mesothelioma patients and protecting consumers from the risks of asbestos exposure, the United States lags significantly behind effort in the United Kingdom.
Based on population, the United Kingdom has the highest rate of mesothelioma diagnoses in the world, with about 2,700 new cases annually. Mesothelioma UK notes asbestos exposure occurred across a much broader range of society than those working in the construction and building sector, many of whom have long been identified as facing high risk of developing mesothelioma.
Because of the lengthy period between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis, typically 25-40 years, the United Kingdom is facing an increasing number of patients being diagnosed with the deadly cancer. The same is expected to hold true in the United States, as the aging Baby Boomers are the generation most exposed to the wide use of asbestos products. From the 1940s-1970s, asbestos was used in a wide array of construction and building products.
The United Kingdom is seeing mesothelioma diagnoses across many employment sectors, including tradespeople, engineering, factory workers, construction, education, healthcare, and the armed forces. As our Boston mesothelioma lawyers recently reported, U.S. military mesothelioma cases are among the most common in the United States, particularly among Navy veterans, where asbestos was commonly used aboard ships for its heat-resistant and insulating properties.
U.S. Fails to Protect Against Asbestos Exposure
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma a year will be diagnosed in the United States.
While the UK banned use of asbestos in 1999, the legal status of asbestos is significantly more complex in the United States, where it remains legal. Following passage of the initial Toxic Substance Control Act in 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted a 10-year study of asbestos. In 1989, it proposed banning asbestos use but that ban was overturned by a 1991 court decision. Using the EPA’s failure to ban asbestos, the Toxic Substances Control Act was overhauled in 2016 but appears to lay the ground work for leaving asbestos use legal in the U.S.
The first employee claims for workplace asbestos exposure were made in the 1920s and the first lawsuit against a manufacturer was filed in 1929. Since then, asbestos litigation has been the longest, most expensive mass tort in U.S. history, involving more than 8,000 defendants and 700,0000 claimants at a cost projected to approach $750 billion.
Our Mesothelioma lawyers in Boston continue to pursue these claims on behalf of victims and their families. As we reported recently on our Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog, asbestos liability has resulted in the bankruptcy of some of the nation’s largest companies.By the early 1990s, more than half of the 25 largest asbestos manufacturers in the US, including Amatex, Carey-Canada, Celotex, Eagle-Picher, Forty-Eight Insulations, Manville Corporation, National Gypsum, Standard Insulation, Unarco, and UNR Industries, had declared bankruptcy. Today, more than 100 mesothelioma trusts have been established by U.S. bankruptcy courts to compensate current and future victims of mesothelioma that was diagnosed as a result of workplace asbestos exposure.
Defendants have also secured legal victories. Most notably and most recently, the California Supreme Court ruled for the defense in O’Neil v. Crane Co. that manufacturers of valves and fittings on Navy ships were not responsible for seamen’s asbestos exposure as a result of handling packing, gaskets and insulation manufactured with asbestos. Defense relied on the “component parts”and related legal theories to preclude strict liability for asbestostosis injuries suffered by seamen years after military service. In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos exposure increases the risk of asbestosis, an inflammatory lung condition that causes shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damage.
Modern Asbestos Exposure Risk in Massachusetts
Among the most significant risks remaining today is exposure to asbestos in older offices, hospitals, schools and apartment buildings. Asbestos is most dangerous when it gets wet and crumbles or frays and becomes airborne, resulting in ingestion of asbestos fibers. Like the United States, the United Kingdom continues to wrestle with this issue as many of its buildings were constructed during the mid-19th century, when asbestos import and use was at its height. In fact, the BBC has reported that nine out of 10 NHS hospitals contain asbestos.
The National Health Service is England’s publicly funded national healthcare system. It has employed nurse specialists at each of its facilities to support medical staff with mesothelioma advise and care, according to the National Health Executive.
Meanwhile, in the United States, legal liability has done as much or more to limit use of asbestos than the patchwork of current and failed regulations. In the late 1970s, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of asbestos in wallboard patching compounds and gas fireplaces because the asbestos fibers in these products could be released into the environment during use. While the EPA banned all new uses of asbestos in 1989, existing uses remain legal under the law.
Today, about 360 metric tons of asbestos are used each year in the United States, down from 803,000 metric tons in 1973.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has also targeted asbestos use in school buildings. While public school buildings must now be inspected for damaged asbestos, reducing exposure risks can be accomplished under the law by covering up damaged asbestos, rather than removal and abatement. Abatement companies have also faced fines and penalties for using untrained and unprotected crews to quickly and cheaply remove asbestos, which increases exposure risk of building occupants, in addition to the obvious risks faced by the unprotected and often unsuspecting workers.
Even family members of those exposed to asbestos have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, most commonly as a result of asbestos dust on work clothing. Because of its widespread use and long latency period, an experienced mesothelioma law firm in Massachusetts must work carefully to identify those responsible for asbestos exposure. But because asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, diagnosis is a sure sign that you have put at risk at some point during your career.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Donald Trump Called Asbestos Poisoning A Mob-Led Conspiracy, Now His EPA Won’t Evaluate Asbestos Already In Homes, June 8, 2018, By Nick Goodkind, Huffington Post
More Blog Entries:
Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog