Researchers Say Mesothelioma Rates Continue to Rise, Cite Environmental Risk
Given the increased awareness of asbestos mesothelioma risks and a subsequent ban of asbestos, many experts expected rates of mesothelioma to decrease in industrial countries. A recent study published in The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, however, suggests that global rates of mesothelioma are still rising, especially in women. Mesothelioma is mostly caused by occupational exposure to asbestos. As such, this aggressive and deadly cancer is more commonly diagnosed among men. The findings however, show that the gender gap for mesothelioma rates is closing. The new study suggests that environmental exposure to asbestos is contributing to mesothelioma rates.
The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits involving occupational and environmental hazards, including asbestos mesothelioma cases. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations.
The study was led by University of New Caledonia epidemiologist Francine Baumann, who believes that the proportion of environmentally-linked cases of mesothelioma cases are increasing in countries where asbestos is no longer used for industry.
The authors note that the male to female sex ratio is 1:1 for mesothelioma cases due to an environmental exposure. “Studying environmental risk of mesothelioma is challenging because of the long latency period and small numbers, and because this type of exposure is involuntary and unknown.” the researchers note. They analyzed mesothelioma deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1999 and 2010.
Findings suggest that occupational exposure-linked mesothelioma cases decreased with time. Additionally, the sex ratio between males and females decreased, “suggesting an increased proportion of environmental cases.”
While most concerns surrounding asbestos exposure have focused on industry, people can also be exposed to asbestos through the environment. Natural deposits of fibrous minerals in certain geographic areas can pose an asbestos risk. Asbestos fibers, which are hazardous when inhaled, can be circulated into the air if these deposits are disturbed through construction and other commercial developments. The authors found that specific locations contain asbestos deposits, including the soil in California and other western states.
Baumann and researchers at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center conducted a previous study published in 2015. Those findings suggested a rising number of mesothelioma cases due to environmental exposure among women and younger residents of southern Nevada counties, including Las Vegas. She says that more research needs to be done in order to address the issue of environmental asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma Mostly Caused by Occupational Exposure to Asbestos
Most of the attention surrounding mesothelioma has focused on exposure to asbestos in the workplace. Asbestos was used as insulation for pipes, floor tiles, building materials and in vehicle breaks and clutches. Asbestos fibers include: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Exposure to asbestos most often occurs during industrial activities, including construction or ship repair. Workers are also exposed during asbestos removal; this may occur during renovation or demolition, for instance.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that all types of asbestos fibers are shown to cause mesothelioma in humans, based on epidemiological findings. The most commonly used form of asbestos is chrysotile.
Inhaling the microscopic asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, where scar-like tissue accumulates in the lungs. This impairs lung function and ultimately leads to disability and death. Exposure to asbestos can also cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the membrane lining most of the organs. Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma often have a poor prognosis. Symptoms include trouble breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, nausea or vomiting, weight loss and anemia (especially in women).
According to the American Lung Association, asbestos exposure accounts for 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma cases.
Asbestos Mesothelioma Litigation
Parker Waichman notes that many personal injury lawsuits have been filed over asbestos-linked mesothelioma. In 2014, a $7.7 million asbestos mesothelioma verdict was issued against bus manufacturer Navistar International Corp. Jurors handed down the verdict after hearing arguments in a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of a man who died of mesothelioma. His widow alleged that he was exposed to asbestos in the school district garage. According to the lawsuit, the man had been working for the Fayetteville-Manlius School District since the 1950s. During his employment he spent a significant amount of time in the district garage clocking in and out, submitting work orders and speaking with mechanics. Allegedly, he was exposed to asbestos when work was done on asbestos-containing bus parts.
An $80 million asbestos mesothelioma settlement was reached last month regarding a case of renovation at a courthouse. The class action lawsuit was filed against Jackson County and Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering, hired to remove the asbestos. According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs were dangerously exposed to asbestos fibers during removal and little to no safeguards were implemented to protect workers and others in the courthouse. The plaintiffs allege that these actions caused them to inhale asbestos and subsequently develop mesothelioma. A portion of the settlement is going into a medical monitoring fund available to some 7,500 people, including courthouse employees, jurors, attorneys and prison inmates.
The suit involved a renovation project that occurred during the 1980s. The defendants were accused of failing to take proper precautions to protect workers or people potentially breathing in the fibers nearby.
One of the plaintiffs says her office was covered with dust and grit during the removal project, as workers tracked the dust through the building. “The particles would be … all over the papers,” she said, according to the 2014 hearing. “The dust from their boots and their work shoes was on the stairway and in the hallways.”
One employee worked at the courthouse during the renovation and died of mesothelioma in 2010. She was 56 years old.
In 2011, her family won a $10.4 million settlement.
Legal Help for Asbestos Mesothelioma Victims
If you or someone you know developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).