Recently, a British college revealed 8% of all cancer deaths in Britain are caused by workplace carcinogens. The most common of occupational cancers in Britain is mesothelioma. In Massachusetts and the United States at large, on the other hand, mesothelioma rose from the 1970s to the 1990s, but since then is believed to have leveled off. There are certain risk factors in the United States that increase one’s risk for developing mesothelioma, however. The most common is asbestos exposure in the workplace.
Is this British study relevant to Massachusetts? Yes. America has many more citizens than the UK. There is an asbestos ban in the UK whereas there is only a partial ban in the United States. We do not know whether most of the asbestos-related claims that will be filed have already been filed or whether (due to the long dormancy period between exposure to asbestos and the subsequent development of mesothelioma) this type of claim is on the rise. Accordingly, it is important to be cognizant of the risk of asbestos exposure within certain industries in the United States so that you can take appropriate precautions.
Asbestos refers to a group of minerals that appear as two types of bundles of fibers made up of multiple elements. The type of fiber considered most likely to cause cancer is sharp like needles. When these are inhaled, they may stick to throat mucus, the windpipe or the lungs. They can travel through small airways and penetrate the lining of the lung and chest wall, eventually leading to mesothelioma. They can also result in asbestosis, which is scar tissue in the lung, or lung cancer.
Use of asbestos in the United States has decreased significantly since 1989, but it is still used in some products and it exists in old buildings, making it especially crucial that construction workers and demolition workers take appropriate precautions to avoid exposure.
Other types of workers in Massachusetts that should be aware of the risks of asbestos exposure are factory workers, some miners, railroad and automotive workers and shipbuilders. OSHA and the EPAhave guidelines about how to work around asbestos and how to remove it from an environment.
There have been some published studies suggesting that mesothelioma can develop from high doses of radiation or from the simian virus 40, but by far the most common reason for developing mesothelioma is working around asbestos in the workplace. The likelihood of developing cancer is higher when a person is exposed to lots of asbestos, especially at an early age and at high levels. Unfortunately it can take 20-50 years for mesothelioma to appear.
OSHA offers different guidelines depending on the industry in question (construction, general and shipyard). The standards’ goal is to reduce risk by requiring employers to provide personal exposure monitoring whenever exposure to asbestos is a possibility. However, there is actually no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even being exposed for a few days can lead to mesothelioma.
If you become aware that you are exposed to asbestos, make sure your employer is working to reduce airborne levels, establishing regulated areas, and employing certain practices and controls to keep employees safe. Workers’ compensation may be one way to recover medical expenses and lost wages for asbestos-related illnesses, but depending upon the circumstances you may prefer to bring a personal injury lawsuit in state court.
If you are concerned about your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage, ask an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney for advice. Contact the workplace injury lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.