Common Fallacies about Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure
It seems that mesothelioma information is easy to come by, right? After all, you’ve probably seen all those late night commercials offering booklets and all sorts of other guidelines on the disease and how you can file suit against those responsible for the asbestos exposure that caused it.
But the fact remains that mesothelioma is still one of the rarest forms of cancer known to man. About 10,000 cases are diagnosed throughout the world each year, with about a quarter of those cases occurring in the United States.
Also, unlike with other more well-known cancers, mesothelioma specialists are not a dime-a-dozen, so to speak. While it’s likely that all oncologists know something about the disease, those who specialize in it are rather few and far between.
Furthermore, there are many mesothelioma myths that circulate about the disease, about asbestos exposure in general, and about the particulars of filing suit against a company or companies responsible for the development of the disease in those 2,500 people per year. In the article below, we’ve attempted to dispel some of the most common fallacies you may have heard from those who perhaps don’t know best.
1. The only people that get mesothelioma are those who suffered long-term exposure
Wrong! While those who worked with asbestos regularly for years – or even decades – are the most likely to develop the disease, simply due to the extended opportunity to inhale fibers, anyone who was exposed even ONCE can develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
A quote from the Minnesota Department of Health, for example, states that “no amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe. Very small amounts of asbestos can give you mesothelioma.”
As a matter of fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency released a similar statement many years ago which stated that ANY amount of exposure to asbestos is dangerous and that the only way to avoid developing an asbestos-related disease is to avoid exposure.
Of course, as mentioned, the longer you are exposed, the higher the probability that you’ll get sick, though not everyone who is exposed to asbestos – even for long periods of time – will suffer negative effects from this exposure. Which brings us to the next fallacy…
2. Only old men who worked in factories get mesothelioma
Wrong again! Mesothelioma is not a disease that is limited to older individuals who worked with the material inside factories, in steel mills, on the railroad, in shipyards, etc. While for several decades they were the ones who most often developed the disease, because asbestos was eventually removed from many of those applications more than forty years ago, this isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
Not too long ago, the Centers for Disease Control issued a statement which explained that, these days, the highest risk of exposure to asbestos is among those involved in construction projects of some sort. This includes not only professional construction workers/contractors but also those who have taken on DIY jobs in their homes or for their businesses.
Specifically, the CDC noted that occupational exposures most often occurred during repair, renovation, removal, and maintenance projects.
In addition, an entire generation or two of individuals suffered secondhand exposure to asbestos when they were children or teens, exposed to dangerous asbestos dust brought home on the clothes of their fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and other family members.
If they were mere children when exposed, they could be diagnosed as early as their 30s, 40s, or 50s. As a matter of fact, this demographic of mesothelioma sufferers has served to bring down the median age of asbestos cancer patients over the last several years. It’s now no longer an old man’s disease.
3. Mesothelioma is the same as lung cancer
No, it’s certainly not! Lung cancer is a far more common form of cancer than mesothelioma and, often, it is caused by excessive smoking. Lung cancer diagnoses number about 225,000 each year in the United States and, according to the American Cancer Society, about 158,000 individuals die each year from the disease.
It remains the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the U.S., and more people die of lung cancer each year than of breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.
Additionally, smoking cannot cause mesothelioma. Those who have been exposed to asbestos and do indeed smoke have a higher chance of developing mesothelioma cancer, but cigarettes are known not to be a sole cause of the disease. Nevertheless, anyone who’s been exposed to asbestos and smokes should kick the habit as soon as possible to lower their risk of developing mesothelioma.
Furthermore, what most people may not realize is that mesothelioma affects more than just the lungs. While pleural mesothelioma – the type that is found in the pleura, the lining of the lungs – is the most prevalent, other types of mesothelioma affect the abdomen (peritoneal) and the heart (pericardial). A handful of cases of testicular mesothelioma have also been diagnosed in the U.S.
Currently, because pleural mesothelioma has long been the most prevalent, the most treatments have been developed for it. Individuals with pleural mesothelioma are living longer than those with the more serious and harder to treat peritoneal and pericardial type.
When diagnosed early enough, pleural mesothelioma can be treated with surgery that involves the removal of the affected lung and the pleura that surrounds and sometimes a portion of the abdomen. It’s a difficult surgery but patients can recover from it, especially if they are younger and in relatively good health other than the cancer.
4. Asbestos is now banned in the United States
Nope! Asbestos has NEVER been banned in the U.S., despite the fact that nearly 50 other nations worldwide have banned the use of the toxic mineral. In the United States, “guidelines” about its use were issued in the late 1970s, but a total ban was never put in place.
That’s not to say that it won’t happen in the future – some politicians are currently rallying for a ban – but right now, asbestos use is still essentially legal in the U.S. though it’s unlikely that anyone is installing asbestos materials in their homes, businesses, factories, cars, etc. at this time.
Remember, however, that even though asbestos products haven’t really been used for some time, you can still encounter them. As was previously mentioned, construction workers and DIY enthusiasts will often find asbestos products in old buildings or homes in products such as:
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Popcorn or textured ceilings and walls
- Drywall and drywall tape
And much more
5. All asbestos is dangerous and should be removed immediately
Asbestos is at its most dangerous when it is “friable”. That means it’s old and crumbly and pieces are likely to flake off and circulate through the air. Sometimes, however, you’ll encounter asbestos products that are intact and do not present a hazard. The only way to determine whether asbestos materials are safe is to have them examined by a certified asbestos inspector.
They can tell you whether the asbestos can remain as is, whether it needs to be encapsulated so it will not cause a problem, or whether it should be removed. If it needs to be removed, that removal should only be done by a licensed asbestos abatement professional.
6. If the company responsible for my exposure went bankrupt, I won’t get any compensation
Not true! During the last few decades, many companies who declared bankruptcy in order to dig themselves out from under piles of asbestos-related lawsuits have been ordered to set up asbestos trusts as part of their reorganization. From those trusts, individuals suffering from asbestos-related diseases can receive funds. An attorney can assist with paperwork for anyone hoping to garner compensation from these companies, which might include:
- Armstrong World Industry
- U.S. Gypsum
- ASARCO LLC
- Babcock and Wilcox
- Congoleum Corporation
- General Motors
- W.R. Grace and Company
- H.K. Porter
- Raymark Industries
And about 40 others
7. I can get millions in an asbestos-related lawsuit..and quickly!
Every asbestos-related lawsuit is different. Sometimes the culprits responsible for your exposure are simple to identify and other times it’s more difficult. At times, it’s hard to prove that your exposure was work-related, for example.
There are many other factors involved in determining whether to go ahead with the filing of a lawsuit. It takes work, both on the part of the attorney and the plaintiff(s), to gather all the information necessary to determine whether or not to forge forward.
While it’s true that many multi-million dollar settlements have been granted, it’s necessary for an attorney to review each case before making a determination as to whether or not to move ahead and how much compensation to request.
An in-depth consultation is necessary at the start and once the suit is filed, it could take months and even years to come to a settlement, either in or out of court. It’s a long process but if an attorney experienced in such cases deems it to be worth his time, the outcome is often very positive.