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Frequently Asked Questions about Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Asbestos is a mineral that was crushed and milled into a fine particulate, and shipped to corporations for building and insulation materials. Asbestos mines around the world, many in Canada, produced over 250 million tons of asbestos for use in the United States between 1890 and 1970. Asbestos was added to a variety of products including insulation, automotive brakes, fireproofing, pipe covering, cements, refractory materials, gaskets, floor tiles and joint compounds.
The dangers of asbestos were known to the companies that made these products as early as the 1920s. However, asbestos was sold and used without warnings up until the 1980s -- when most asbestos products were banned in the United States and other countries. Alternative materials were available that could have been used in place of asbestos.
During the installation, repair, maintenance, renovation and removal of asbestos materials, the products were cut, scraped, sanded and otherwise altered. Some materials, such as cements, were mixed at job sites using raw asbestos fibers. These processes created dust, which was breathed in by the laborers working with and around these materials. Dust from these products also traveled throughout buildings and factories and ships, and remained airborne for weeks. When swept, these materials were re-suspended in the air -- where they were breathed in again by workers in the vicinity.
A wide array of workers were exposed to asbestos including shipyard workers, factory workers, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, plumbers, laborers, machinists, mechanics, powerhouse workers, and electricians. One cloud of dust from asbestos products can contain millions or billions of fibers, and even a small amount of asbestos can cause lung damage. Injuries also occur to women who washed their husband's clothing after they returned home from work and to individuals who used asbestos products, such as floor tiles, in their homes.
Often, individuals won't recall how they were exposed to asbestos, and may believe that they were not exposed to asbestos at all. A careful examination and review of a person's work and life history often reveals exposures to asbestos products that may not be readily apparent.
When a person breathes asbestos, fibers can become lodged in the lungs. Once there, they can cause scarring. Asbestos fibers can also cause mesothelioma and lung cancer. The knowledge that asbestos can cause these fatal diseases has been known by many corporations since the 1920's.
The specific disease types associated with asbestos exposure include:
Asbestos can scar the lung and the lining of the lung. This scarring is known as asbestosis or interstitial fibrosis. If enough scarring occurs, it can impair the elasticity of the lungs and hamper their ability to exchange gases. As a result, there is inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. This impairment leads to shortness of breath. Over time, the breathing capacity can diminish and in some cases, become fatal.
Asbestosis, like other asbestos diseases, is a disease of latency -- it takes 10 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos for a person to become sick.
There is no known cure for asbestosis.
Asbestos can also lodge in the lining of the lung -- commonly known as the pleura. These fibers can cause cancer in the pleural area, known as mesothelioma. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos.
Mesothelioma appears at least 10 years after exposure to asbestos. In some cases, a person exposed to asbestos over 50 years ago may get mesothelioma this year.
For a complete description of mesothelioma, click here to visit our mesothelioma page.
Asbestos also causes lung cancer. A person who does not smoke can get lung cancer from being to exposed to asbestos. If you smoked in the past or are presently smoking, and have been diagnosed with lung cancer, asbestos may also be a cause of your cancer. For smokers, asbestos and tobacco act together, greatly increasing the risk of lung cancer. The combination of smoking and asbestos can increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer, depending on its severity and the medical history of the individual, may be treated.
For information on cancer treatment centers, click here.
Asbestos has also been associated with many other cancers, including cancers of the throat and stomach areas.
The companies that manufactured, sold and installed asbestos products had extensive knowledge of the deadly hazards of asbestos as early as 1920. Yet, these corporations waited decades to provide warnings to workers and to the general public. In some cases, warnings were never provided.
In addition to this actual knowledge on the part of asbestos corporations, the evidence available in medical books and journals revealed the dangers of asbestos exposure long before millions of American workers were exposed.
Here's a brief timeline of the known dangers:
Late 1800's: The first reports of lung disease in people working in asbestos factories.
1918: US government report stating that it was the practice of American and Canadian life insurance companies not to sell coverage to asbestos workers due to the assumed injurious health consequences. A reference reports that the Chief Inspector in England is aware of deaths and lung disease in workers at asbestos plants.
1924: British medical journal publishes first widely available article describing death of a 33-year old woman who worked in an asbestos textile plant.
1927: A pathologist issues a report describing asbestosis as a disease that involves the scarring of the lungs and shortness of breath. The report indicates that asbestosis could be fatal.
1928: Journal of the American Medical Association publishes editorial called "Pulmonary Asbestosis." Articles and case reports describing incidence of asbestosis are published in the United States and worldwide.
1930: Dr. Merewether, a famous researcher, publishes first clinical examination of hundreds of workers in the asbestos industry. He found that one out of four workers was suffering from asbestosis. Dr. Merewether further concluded:
* That asbestosis was a disease of latency, i.e. that workers exposed to asbestos wouldn't show signs of injury for many years;
* That asbestos dust had to be controlled through ventilation and the use of respirators.
* That workers exposed to asbestos should be informed and warned in order to assure a "sane appreciation of the risk."
* That the finished products created dust that should be controlled and minimized.
Dr. Merewether's medical description of asbestos disease mirrors exactly the description of the disease today. His recommendations, if implemented by the asbestos industry, would have saved tens of thousands of lives and injuries to American workers.
1930s: Reports demonstrated that asbestosis was occurring in workers with as little as nine months of exposure.
1933: First American case report of asbestosis in an insulation worker.
1934: Researchers report cases of asbestosis and lung cancer in an asbestos factory. Many of the workers had less than six months of exposure to asbestos. Reports were also published of asbestosis from workplace exposure to products, including boiler workers, custodians and insulators.
1942: Researchers report that lung cancer in building trades workers is likely caused by asbestos. Dr. Heuper, a noted occupational physician and the first chief of the environmental cancer section of the National Cancer Institute, suggests that asbestos causes Asbestosis as well as cancer in the manufacturing process as well as through finished building products such as insulation and packing materials. In 1949, Dr. Heuper warns that asbestos was a cancer risk to the general population. By this time there were over 200 references in the widely available literature regarding asbestos and disease.
1943: First case of a mesothelioma-like tumor reported.
1947: Dr. Merewether finds that 13% of asbestosis cases also had cancer of the lungs or pleura.
1949: Encyclopedia Brittanica lists asbestos as a recognized cause of occupational and environmental cancer. The Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that asbestos is probably linked to occupational cancer.
1953: Mesothelioma is reported in an asbestos insulator.
1955: A major epidemiological study demonstrates that asbestos workers have a tenfold risk above the general population of contracting lung cancer.
1960: Another epidemiological study confirms reports that exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma. This study also included the children and wives of asbestos workers who contracted mesothelioma.
1964: Dr. Selikoff, a major researcher at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, confirms widespread disease among asbestos workers and from family members living with asbestos workers. A large number of job titles were implicated in the report, including construction workers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc. Selikoff pointed out that asbestos did not "respect" job titles and could harm any person who breathed in asbestos.
After 1964, the medical literature continued to identify asbestos as a major carcinogen and environmental hazard. Over 200 publications described the hazards of asbestos by the end of the 1960's.
Notwithstanding this knowledge, and the death that resulted from breathing in the dust from these products, the manufacturers and installers of these materials continued to sell and install asbestos products without warning workers, reducing the dust or substituting equally effective materials in place of the asbestos. Tragically, many companies had secured additional knowledge regarding the connection between asbestos and cancer as early as the 1930's. However, these companies altered research reports to hide these findings from the public.
The knowledge listed above only reflects a small sample of the evidence that Belluck & Fox uses on behalf of its clients. Additional information is gathered for each individual case.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease (asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma), you can bring a legal claim against the manufacturers, sellers, and installers of asbestos products. Filing a legal claim can help you address the medical and financial problems that asbestos-related diseases can cause victims and their families.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you have limited time to file a claim and should contact an attorney about your case. The spouse and family of an injured victim may also be eligible to bring legal claims. To contact Belluck & Fox, click here.
Even if you do not recall the precise nature of your exposure to asbestos or the names of the products to which you were exposed, we use our extensive knowledge of work sites and products to investigate and prosecute your claim. Victims of asbestos products and their families should carefully select attorneys who are experienced in asbestos litigation. Further, you should hire attorneys who will fully investigate your claim and provide you with individual representation. Belluck & Fox provides fast, professional and personalized legal representation. We will only represent you if we believe that there is a reasonable chance of a successful outcome for you and your family. To have your case evaluated immediately, click here.
There are many people who suffer from asbestos-related diseases but can not recall how or where they were exposed to asbestos. In fact, even your doctor (unless they focus on asbestos-related diseases) may not be entirely familiar with the wide range of spectrum of asbestos exposures. This is especially true because asbestos diseases are latent -- it takes years for the symptoms and injuries caused by asbestos to appear.
At Belluck & Fox, we devote a substantial amount of time to reviewing your work and life history to identify possible exposures to asbestos. In many instances, a person may not be aware that certain products, such as floor tiles, brake linings, cements and even hair dryers contained asbestos. In addition, we are familiar with the use and presence of asbestos at many work sites and factories, including powerhouses, shipyards, schools and large buildings. We can find the witnesses and documents that will help establish your exposure to asbestos.
Belluck & Fox spends hours researching and investigating each asbestos case. We also use our substantial experience to help us investigate how you were exposed to asbestos and the companies responsible for your exposure. Our inventory of cases is limited to clients with serious injuries and we devote significant time and resources to each case.
There were a wide variety of trades and jobs that were exposed to asbestos dust from building products or raw asbestos. It is not just the workers who worked directly with asbestos and asbestos products that are getting sick from asbestos diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The victims include workers who worked near or around other people who used these these materials. Because asbestos dust becomes airborne and can be invisible, the fibers travel throughout a worksite and expose all of the workers at that location. In a single sweeping, millions and millions of asbestos fibers can be released into the breathing zone of anybody in that vicinity. Over the course of a career, a worker could have breathed several billion fibers, some of which lodge in the lung, and cause injury.
Some of the occupations that are typically associated with the onset of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases include:
- Pipe Coverers
- Brake Mechanics
- Auto Mechanics
- Merchant Marine Seaman
- Cement Finishers
- Foundry Workers
- Navy Yard Workers / Yard birds
- Paper workers
- Automotive mechanics
- Sheet metal workers
- Crane Operators
- Aircraft Mechanics
- Masonry Workers
- Plant workers
- Powerhouse Workers
- Railroad Workers
- Maintenance Workers
- Paper Mill Workers
These are just some of the occupations involved. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease (lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis), contact Belluck & Fox to have your claim evaluated.
- Pipe Covering
- Acoustical Plaster
- Brake Linings
- Sprayed-on Fireproofing
- Floor Tiles
- Insulating Blankets
- Cigarette Filters
- Hair Dryers
- Xerox Machines
- Packing materials
- Insulating Tape
- Joint Compounds
- Refractory products
- Block Insulation
- Asphalt products
- Ceiling Tiles
This is just a partial list of asbestos-containing products. Asbestos was often used as an ingredient or component in these products between 1942 and 1973, and there were some products such as gaskets that contained asbestos well after 1973.
The primary reason that asbestos was used in building products was as a binder or filler material. It was cheap and easily available. It is stringy and resilient, and thus made a good binder. Its resilience also reduced the breakage of the products between the factory and the worksite. In pipe covering and other materials, asbestos created air pockets which provided heat resistance.
Asbestos was marketed for its "fire resistant" qualities. In reality, at approximately 1200 degrees, asbestos transforms into an inert mineral. Other materials were available, even in the 1930's and thereafter, that could have been used (and, in fact, were used) as substitutes for asbestos without any sacrifice in product integrity or heat resistance. The asbestos industry peddled asbestos as a "magic mineral," creating a demand for the material, without advising of the dangers of asbestos. As a result, thousands of American workers were injured and killed. It was unnecessary and could have been avoided.
Asbestos illnesses and cancers are diseases of latency. This means that injuries from exposure to asbestos fibers do not become apparent until at least ten years after exposure. In many cases, diseases occur over 50 years after exposure to asbestos fibers. Therefore, individuals exposed to asbestos in the 1940's, 50's, 60's and 7'0s may be diagnosed with an asbestos disease this year.
Asbestos is asbestos, whether encountered in the workplace or at home. Even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can cause injuries. There are even reports of housewives who washed their husband's clothing contracting mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related cancer. Simply being in the same room or in the vicinity of someone else using asbestos can result in asbestos disease.
Exposure in the home could have also occurred when renovation or repair work was performed. Products such as joint compounds, wallboards, gaskets, fireproofing, pipe covering, cements, floor tiles, wires, mastic, ceiling tiles and boiler insulation often contained asbestos. If these products were mixed, grinded, cut, sawed, sprayed, removed or otherwise manipulated, banged or damaged, they could have released significant asbestos fibers into your home. The fibers remain airborne for weeks. You can't smell or see asbestos fibers.
In home exposure cases, we investigate every possible exposure to establish the manufacturers and sellers of the materials that were used. We use a wide variety of resources and our experience to prosecute your case. If you believe you have been injured by asbestos used in your home, contact Belluck & Fox by clicking here.
Many of our clients have never been involved in a lawsuit. Although each case is different, there are some common elements to every case:
Our first contact with you is a personal telephone call from Mr. Belluck or Mr. Fox. During that telephone call, if we determine that you should pursue a legal claim, we will schedule an appointment to meet with you within one week. During that initial meeting, which can be at your home or in our office, we:
- explain the process of filing and prosecuting a lawsuit;
- explore your work, life and medical history; and,
- obtain signed authorizations to get copies of medical and employment records
During the meeting, if we conclude that there is a reasonable chance of a successful outcome, we will present you with a retainer agreement. A retainer is a legal fee agreement between Belluck & Fox and our clients that explains the legal fees and other terms related to our representation. The attorney who meets with you will explain the details of this agreement.
FILING THE COMPLAINT
After researching and investigating the responsible companies, we file an individual legal claim on your behalf in a state court. These companies include manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and installers of asbestos materials. These companies are the defendants in your case.
We do not sue your employer(s), because this is generally prohibited by workers' compensation laws. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are responsible for manufacturing, selling and/or installing defective asbestos products and equipment, caused you to be exposed to asbestos and that they failed to warn you of the dangers of asbestos. The defendants have approximately one month to answer the allegations in your complaint.
PROSECUTING THE CASE
The first consideration is your health. We will do everything possible to respect your privacy and minimize any further disruptions in your life. We may ask the court to advance your case quickly so we can assure you a fast resolution of your case, usually no longer than one year from the filing of the complaint.
Once the Court issues a schedule for your case, the discovery phase of your case begins. This means that we secure all of the evidence necessary to prove that the corporations we sued on your behalf are held responsible for your injuries.
As part of this process, you will testify at a deposition and answer questions about your background. We arrange for your deposition to be conducted at a location which is convenient for you, even, if necessary, at your home. Of course, Belluck & Fox will be present at every step of the process.
We also conduct a thorough investigation in your case, including talking to your co-workers, demanding documents from the asbestos companies and reviewing your medical history. We also hire medical and other experts to help us in the case.
We wish to emphasize that most, if not all, of the work required to prosecute your case is undertaken by Belluck & Fox, and does not require us to disturb you or your family
As the case progresses, some defendants may seek to resolve your case for fair value settlements. In many instances a case will settle your prior to the date that the trial is scheduled to begin.
If we do not receive a full and fair settlement for your claims, we will advise you of the options for trial. During the trial, we will present testimony and evidence in support of your claim. We will also have medical and other experts testify on your behalf. Belluck & Fox are experienced trial lawyers and will fully represent you and your family in every phase of the trial.
Belluck & Fox provides individualized and professional representation from the first client meeting to the last appeal in your case. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer, contact Belluck & Fox, by clicking here.
As part of our representation, we fully investigate and prosecute each individual case. We will fully interview you and other witnesses, such as your coworkers. We also have a vast library of documents and testimony from and about the companies that made asbestos products -- documents and testimony that we have gathered in other asbestos cases. This information can be used in your case. We will also gather additional evidence in your case, including new documents from the asbestos companies and additional testimony about the products that were used at your worksites.
Belluck & Fox prides itself on our commitment to investigating each case. We handle each case individually. From the initial meeting, we will start our research and investigation of your claims, and we will continue to represent you throughout every phase of your case.
Each claim that we file is an individual lawsuit. We do not file class actions for asbestos cases. An individual lawsuit maximizes your opportunity to receive compensation. It also provides us an opportunity to present the unique and compelling aspects of each case. We take great pride in our relationships with our clients, and will represent you as an individual.
By the time a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, they are often too ill to participate in their own case. In some cases, your loved one may have passed away before a lawsuit was brought and before they were able to testify on their own behalf.
If an individual is unable to testify, we work closely with family, friends and co-workers to establish the facts we need to successfully prosecute the case. We also have access to a vast array of resources to secure information about the products to which your loved one was exposed.
If the individual has died, we can file a claim through the administrator or the executor of the estate, and also on behalf of the victim's relatives.
If your family member (parent, spouse) has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer, or died from these illnesses, contact Belluck & Fox for an evaluation of your case.
If you decide to retain our services, we will work for you and your family on a contingency basis. This means that we do not receive a fee unless we our successful in obtaining settlements or recovering compensation for you and your family. Otherwise, you will not be billed for our services.
While the case is pending, we advance the costs of working on your case. Once the case is completed, the expenses and legal fees in your case are deducted from the money we recover on your behalf, and you and your family receive the remaining money from your settlements.
If you are considering hiring Belluck & Fox to prosecute your claim, one of our attorneys will sit down with you and answer any questions you may have about the contingency agreement. It is important to us that you are fully aware of the details of the contract before we begin to work on your claim. We will give you a copy of the retainer contract so that you may review it and discuss it with us at any time.
There are laws in every state which limit the time for individuals and their families to file claims for mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. If you do not file your case within these time limits, you will likely be barred from receiving compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately. To contact Belluck & Fox and protect your legal rights, click here.
Asbestos alone can cause lung cancer. If you smoked in the past or are presently smoking, and have been diagnosed with lung cancer, asbestos may also be a cause of your cancer. For smokers, asbestos and tobacco act together, greatly increasing the risk of lung cancer. The combination of smoking and asbestos can increase the risk factor of lung cancer.
Smoking does not cause mesothelioma or asbestosis. Therefore, if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis, it was caused by your asbestos exposure, and has no relationship to your smoking.
The typical entities that are sued in asbestos cases are:
- manufacturers of asbestos-containing products;
- contractors that installed and repaired asbestos-containing products and equipment;
- suppliers who provided the materials to the work site; and,
- owners of property who allowed asbestos materials to be used on their property.
We typically do not sue your employer due to workers' compensation laws. Instead, we work with you and your family to identify the manufacturers, sellers, distributors, suppliers and contractors that were responsible for your exposure to asbestos.
Over the past two years, some of the corporations responsible for asbestos products have sought protection from lawsuits by filing for bankruptcy. Instead of filing a lawsuit against these companies, a fund is established by the bankruptcy courts to compensate asbestos victims.
The impact of these bankruptcies is significant. It is the duty of any attorney handling an asbestos case to identify all responsible parties that caused your exposure to asbestos.
Belluck & Fox is familiar with and has experience with recovering compensation from the bankruptcy funds. As part of our representation of you and your family, we will file claims with all of the appropriate bankruptcy funds and secure additional compensation for you and your family.
For a list of bankrupt defendants, click here.
Among the corporations that have filed for bankruptcy or are defunct are:
- GAF Corporation
- Johns-Manville Corporation
- HK Porter
- Keene Corporation / Baldwin-Ehret Hill
- Nicolet/ Keasbey & Mattison
- US Minerals Corporation
- US Gypsum Corporation
- W.R. Grace
- AP Green
- North American Refractories Corporation (NARCO)
- National Gypsum
- Babcock & Wilcox
- Owens Corning Fiberglas
- Armstrong World Industries
- Phillip Carey Corporation
- Pittsburgh Corning Corporation
- Fibreboard Corporation
- 48 Insulations
- Kaiser Aluminum
- Federal Mogul
- EJ Bartells
- Morrison Knudsen
We carefully select our cases in order to devote personal attention to each and every client. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, contact Belluck & Fox, and we will respond within 24 hours to promptly evaluate your case. There is no charge for this evaluation. We will only represent you and your family if we believe there is a reasonable likelihood of a successful outcome in your case.
As with any lawsuit, we make every effort to resolve your case without a trial. In many instances, we are able to fully resolve your case without a trial. However, in some cases, a responsible party will refuse to pay you an d your family fair compensation for your injuries, and a trial is necessary to assure that justice is achieved for you and your family. As experienced trial lawyers, Belluck & Fox is fully prepared to prosecute your case from start to finish, including a trial.
From the time we first meet with you, we consider and act upon your wishes and priorities. There are clients who want to have trial to have their case heard by a jury of their peers. There are also clients who, for a variety of reasons, do not prefer a trial, and we work closely with these clients to advise them about their options for resolving their claims without a trial proceeding. At all stages of the case, including the decision regarding whether to proceed to trial, our first priority is you and your family.
As experienced attorneys specializing in asbestos litigation, we make every effort to advance your case as quickly as possible. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, we petition the courts to resolve your case within one year.
One of the cornerstones of our practice is that we provide personalized representation to each of our clients. You and family will be working directly with one of our lawyers. We spend significant time investigating and researching each case, and we maintain frequent contact with our clients. You will be able to contact us at home and on weekends, and we will make every effort to respect you and your family's privacy. We are committed to treating you and your family with respect and deference. We will advise you of your legal rights and obligations at every step of the case, and will find the right balance to help you and your family.
Yes. If your father, husband or other relative has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact Belluck & Fox. We will work with you to help your family protect your legal rights and receive full and fair compensation for these injuries. We have significant experience working with the families of asbestos victims. To contact Belluck & Fox, click here.