Most of us learn along the way that a life well lived carries with it some elements of risk. For those of you whose work involved exposure to asbestos, you took a risk you didn’t even know about. Years later, you may be suffering from respiratory issues and general poor health as a result of this exposure. While much of the risk is now well publicized, many victims understand little of its cause and, perhaps more importantly, know little of the possible compensation that is available to them.
What is Asbestos?
- First of all, it helps to know what asbestos really is. Asbestos is a natural mineral found to be an effective insulator as it is both heat and corrosion resistant. The mineral has been used for centuries in products ranging from lamp wicks to construction material. It was not until the early 1800s that large-scale mining of asbestos for industrial use began, and British pathologist, Dr. W.E. Cooke, wrote the first medical case study report in 1924 about a woman whose death was due to repeated exposure to asbestos. It was Dr. Cooke who gave the disease its name, pulmonary asbestosis.
- There are six types of Asbestos: Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Tremilite, Anthophyllite and Actinolite. All of these are now banned in 52 countries including the U.S. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of asbestos-like minerals that remain unregulated. Each one is considered a human carcinogen (a cancer causing agent). Cases involving asbestos-related respiratory issues result from exposure in work environments that involve heat in the manufacturing process or places with boilers, dye houses, fibers.cotton etc.
What Is Asbestosis Disease?
- Asbestosis is fibrosis (known as scaring) of the lungs. When asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs, they cause injury to vulnerable lung tissues. The build-up of fibrous tissue (scar tissue) is part of the body’s natural response to healing as well as a natural defense to foreign material. When the lungs are repeatedly exposed to asbestos, scar tissue can rise to levels that impair the lungs ability to take in oxygen (known as restrictive lung disease).
- Symptoms of asbestosis can occur within a few years of exposure but the majority of cases occur one to two decades after initial exposure. Health issues show up years later in the form of cancer or breathing problems. Asbestosis is not lung cancer but those diagnosed with asbestosis are 8-10 times more likely to develop cancer. Types of malignant tumors include: malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, and ovarian cancer. Cigarette smokers who were exposed to asbestos have an increased risk of developing malignancies.
Am I at Risk of Developing Asbestosis?
- You are at risk of developing asbestosis if you had exposure to asbestos fibers. Prior to the early 1970’s workers mostly likely exposed were those involved in asbestos mining, milling and the manufacturing of asbestos textiles, along with insulation workers in the construction industry. When the use of asbestos was banned in many products in the mid-1970s, the at-risk population shifted to include those involved in demolition, fire fighters and custodial workers exposed to decaying asbestos.
Do I Have Asbestosis?
- People who have any kind of respiratory issues and previously worked in any of these environments long ago, should contact their physician for any health concerns. A thorough medical exam including a chest x-ray can help diagnose asbestosis. Your physician may recommend additional diagnostic tools such as a lung function test and/or a lung biopsy.
Is There Treatment for Asbestosis?
- The good news is that there is treatment. As with most diseases, the earlier it is detected, the better your chances are of having a favorable outcome. Treatment for asbestosis may include oxygen therapy to help with shortness of breath, medications to relieve pain and thin lung secretions, and respiratory physiotherapy to expel lung secretions. Currently, asbestosis is incurable and treatment to undue damage that has already occurred is not available.
Is There Compensation for Individuals Suffering from Asbestosis?
- In an effort to hold these companies in this industry accountable, trusts have been set up to assist workers who have fallen victim to this painful and debilitating disease.
Who Can Help Me Determine My Eligibility for Asbestosis Compensation?
- If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis or an asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to Workers Compensation benefits from your employer as well as from the asbestos manufacturer. If you have questions or would like more information about asbestosis compensation, Elrod Pope Law Firm invites you to contact us. Our skilled and compassionate attorneys will help you understand your options and walk you through the process. The professionals at Elrod Pope Law Firm understand the doubt, fear and worry associated with personal injury. We can help you. Call us today for a no-obligation consultation.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.