The dangers of asbestos exposure have become well-known to the general public in the last twenty years or more. To be sure, Americans across the country have been able to turn on televisions to see commercials about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnoses, and similar information has appeared in print media, on billboards, and in online advertising. Even as television has shifted largely to streaming such that viewers are no longer seeing commercials on a regular basis, the hazards of mesothelioma remain present through internet advertising and in legal materials concerning mesothelioma liability. Indeed, mesothelioma has become a controversial topic as it pertains to asbestos exposure and the numerous and large-scale lawsuits that have been filed against manufacturers and other companies responsible for making and selling consumer and commercial products containing asbestos.
There are various ways in which asbestos exposure, mesothelioma diagnoses, and asbestos-related litigation has become a complex and often contentious set of topics in the United States. Most immediately this multifaceted topic tends to be controversial for a few key reasons: continued use and exposure to asbestos in various circumstances without tighter safety standards and regulation, increased costs to manufacturers and insurers who have faced lawsuits related to asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma diagnoses, and the rights of mesothelioma patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness either years or decades following exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos Was Used Widely and Many People Are Still Exposed
Asbestos was widely used in various kinds of consumer products, as well as commercial materials, throughout the twentieth century. Even two decades into the twenty-first century, asbestos is still used in some materials, and it exists in various building materials and household products that were made at various points of the twentieth century or earlier. There are various ways in which asbestos exposure can occur in your home, at work, and in other ways in a person’s daily life.
Many uses of asbestos were commonplace, and millions of people live in homes or work in buildings where asbestos is present. As such, asbestos exposure could still occur at home, at work, and in other environments. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos is “a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil,” and “because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant.” In addition, the EPA clarifies, “asbestos has also been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistance fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.”
Asbestos can be found in residential homes, schools, workplaces, and in the air and drinking water. You could be exposed to asbestos through any of the following products that frequently were manufactured with asbestos, according to the EPA:
- Attic insulation;
- Wall insulation;
- Vinyl tile flooring;
- Vinyl floor adhesives;
- Roofing shingles;
- Siding shingles;
- Textured paint, including popcorn ceilings;
- Flooring and walls around wood-burning stoves;
- Millboard or paper around wood-burning stoves;
- Steam pipes covered with asbestos;
- Hot water pipes covered with asbestos;
- Heat-resistant fabrics;
- Vehicle clutches; and
- Vehicle brakes.
People can be exposed to asbestos by doing home improvement work in homes containing asbestos, being in schools or workplaces where renovations are being completed or asbestos is in the air, and through various types of jobs that routinely involve exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is Not Banned Outright in the United States Although Risks of Exposure Are Documented
Despite the fact that the risks of asbestos are well-known and well-documented, asbestos is not banned outright in the United States, and the EPA emphasizes. The EPA cites the following rules designed to limit asbestos exposure, yet these rules also highlight that asbestos is still present and common in many American homes, workplaces, schools, and other places:
- 1989 partial ban on asbestos resulted in the ban of the “manufacturer, import, processing, and distribution of some asbestos-containing products,” as well as a ban on “new uses of asbestos which prevent new asbestos products from entering the marketplace after August 25, 1989.”
- April 2019 asbestos restrictions, which are designed to “ensure that asbestos products that are no longer on the market cannot return to commerce” without evaluation by the EPA.
- April 2022 proposed asbestos ban, which would, if it were finalized, “protect American workers and families by prohibiting ongoing uses of the only known form of asbestos currently imported into the U.S. to address the unreasonable risk found to human health in the December 2020 chrysotile asbestos risk evaluation” undertaken by the EPA. Specifically, the proposed rule is designed to “prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce, and commercial use of chrysotile asbestos for all ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos.”
Attempts Are Routinely Made to Obscure the Risks of Asbestos Exposure
Consumer safety and health advocates suggest that attempts have been made, and continue to be made, to obscure the public’s knowledge about risks of asbestos exposure. Indeed, according to the Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America, news articles concerning asbestos and its potential hazards have been in existence since the 1950s, although knowledge of asbestos exposure and its risks increased significantly in the 1970s, when the public should have had access to more information about known hazards and the likelihood of exposure in various types of scenarios. Yet despite the fact that researchers and manufacturers knew about the risks of exposure during the height of the use of asbestos in consumer goods and commercial materials, the public’s knowledge was limited through the twentieth century and remains relatively limited still.
To be sure, many people continue to believe that a small amount of exposure to asbestos will not cause long-term harm, or that extensive and lengthy exposure to asbestos is necessary in order to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. This is a common myth that often circulates for various reasons, from the public’s desire to avoid scientific information concerning health and well-being to lobbying from certain industries that can continue to benefit from a general lack of knowledge about asbestos and its continued presence in the United States.
Manufacturers and Insurers Have a Financial Interest in Limiting Knowledge About Asbestos Exposure and Its Links to Malignant Mesothelioma
Certain manufacturers, insurers, and other companies have a financial interest in limiting knowledge about asbestos exposure and its links to malignant mesothelioma, as well as obscuring public knowledge and concern about the dangers of asbestos exposure. Since Americans with mesothelioma have begun to file lawsuits for asbestos exposure that caused their cancer, the matter of mesothelioma and asbestos-related injury litigation has become a political topic. Businesses have experienced a financial impact when plaintiffs have won mesothelioma lawsuits, and manufacturers and other companies have been under pressure to provide compensation for mesothelioma patients and their families.
Litigation concerning mesothelioma diagnoses and asbestos-related illnesses has a bigger financial and political impact on certain types of manufacturers and insurers in the U.S. Indeed, not only are those companies responsible for paying out damages awards when a plaintiff wins a lawsuit, but that kind of liability opens the door for other plaintiffs to file lawsuits and to obtain compensation from manufacturers, insurers, and other companies. Advocates for businesses have in some ways turned the matter of litigation into a political issue, questioning the value of litigation and high payouts for cancer diagnoses linked to asbestos exposure that occurred years or decades prior to the diagnosis.
Mesothelioma Patients and Their Families Should Have Rights When It Comes to Holding Companies Liable for Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma patients and their families have rights when it comes to seeking compensation for a mesothelioma diagnosis linked to asbestos exposure. Further, workers who are routinely or potentially exposed to asbestos also have rights to a safe workplace, including access to safety gear designed to prevent asbestos exposure and safety training to ensure that asbestos exposure does not occur in jobs where it can be prevalent. Any workers who are union members, as well as mesothelioma patients who are union members, should continue to be in contact with their union representatives about asbestos safety in the workplace and rights concerning asbestos exposure and holding various parties accountable for resulting malignancies.
If you or someone you love was recently diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is important to know that you may still have time to file a lawsuit even though the exposure to asbestos occurred years or decades prior to the diagnosis. For many mesothelioma patients, the clock on the statute of limitations will start to tick on the date of the malignant mesothelioma diagnosis as opposed to the date of the asbestos exposure. This is important to note since many personal injury lawsuits have a statute of limitations clock that will begin ticking on the date of the initial injury or exposure. To determine whether you have time to file a claim according to the statute of limitations, it is important to seek advice from an injury lawyer with experience handling mesothelioma claims and to stay abreast of changes to any legislation concerning patient rights and remedies.