Labor Day Reflections

The Labor Day holiday is well known as a symbolic end to the summer season, when Americans take a well-deserved break to spend time with friends and family.  But there is more to the story than beach barbeques, fireworks displays, and street parades.   I want to take a moment to reflect on the meaning of this American holiday.  Labor Day is also a day for us to recognize the contributions and achievements of America’s workers.   This is a special holiday, which celebrates the men and women who work so hard to make our country a great place.

 Workers At Risk

For much of the twentieth century, the American workplace was often filled with a hidden hazard — the hazard of asbestos.   Asbestos was widely used at jobsites throughout most of the twentieth century.  Well known for its durability and versatility, asbestos was sold to the public as the ideal industrial material.  Workers were not told that asbestos was also a toxic and dangerous carcinogen, which can cause mesothelioma and other diseases decades after exposure.  Many American workers were put at risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases as a result of asbestos exposure on the job

I have been a mesothelioma lawyer for the past thirty-four years.  I have represented workers who were exposed to asbestos on the job and developed mesothelioma through no fault of their own.  I met my first mesothelioma client in 1978:  a retired electrician who was exposed to asbestos at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.  I have since represented thousands of other clients who were unknowingly exposed at mills, power plants, oil refineries, construction sites, military bases, and automotive shops.   I have also represented the wives and children of asbestos workers who were exposed to asbestos that these men brought home on their clothes after a hard day’s work.

 Honoring the Sacrifices of American Workers

My clients have made extreme sacrifices for our country, and for that, I am sincerely grateful.  Their hard work and dedication to their jobs have resulted in the durable products, homes, and buildings that we all rely on today.  And let’s not fail to acknowledge the military veterans, whose job duties entailed the fight for our country’s freedom.  I wish that these invaluable contributions did not come at the expense of my clients’ health, and too often, their lives.

On this Labor Day, I salute all American workers past and present.  These are truly our unsung heroes, whose contributions have molded this country into what it is today.   I am proud and honored to have been able to achieve full and fair compensation for so many workers and their families in asbestos claims over the past 34 years.

Mesothelioma and the Occult Exposure

In my thirty-three years as a mesothelioma lawyer, I have learned to investigate and identify those responsible for my clients’ asbestos exposure.  Of all the exposures to asbestos, the occult – or unknown – is perhaps the most difficult to identify.  Known as the Fifth Wave of exposure, it is one of the most prevalent stories told today by the newly diagnosed mesothelioma patient.

Uncovering Each Client’s History of Asbestos Exposure

Malignant mesothelioma is a “signal tumor” for asbestos exposure.  Asbestos exposure is the main cause of malignant mesothelioma, and the vast majority of the cases can be linked to a known occupational exposure.  However, in some cases, patients who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma cannot recall where they have been exposed to asbestos – or they do not know that they were exposed to asbestos at all.

There is a very good reason for these patients’ lack of awareness.  Some exposures took place twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, and have been forgotten.  Other exposures were so minimal or took place in such unique settings or unusual circumstances that the patient is totally unaware of them.  Many of these exposures took place in childhood.

Asbestos Exposure Occurs in Many Different Settings

It is important for mesothelioma patients and their families to know that asbestos is found in many different products and exposures occur in many different settings.  Some of these may be familiar to most people; others are not so well-known.

Gaskets; sprayed-on fireproofing; fire blankets; plastic fillers; asphalt and vinyl felts; papers and adhesives; flooring and roofing materials; filters; putties, caulks, and cements; acoustical and decorative plaster; joint compound; ceiling and floor tiles; drywall and paints; surfacing and reinforcement materials; textiles; electrical wiring; and water supply lines – all of these are examples of products that may contain asbestos.

Asbestos is also present in friction products.  The asbestos in brake-linings and clutch pads is hazardous not only to mechanics working in garages, but also to the “weekend mechanic” who works on his or her own cars or trucks.

Other occupational exposures are not so well known:  bakers, jewelers, rubber workers, paper mill workers, teachers, custodians, laborers, and maintenance workers.

The “Secondary Exposures”

In addition to posing a hazard to those who are working directly with asbestos products, asbestos is also a danger to those who are merely in the vicinity – to “bystanders” and others who often unknowingly come into contact with asbestos dust. These are sometimes called the “secondary exposures.”  Asbestos fibers become airborne, and very small fibers can stay in the air for long periods.  There are many reports in the literature of mesothelioma arising from neighborhood and residential exposures – those who live near mines, shipyard, construction sites or factories where asbestos is in use or where demolition activities are taking place.

There is also the matter of “asbestos in place.”  Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable.  It is present in many older buildings and it is released during repair work and during demolition and renovation.

Entire families have been exposed when workers brought home dusty clothes.  It is well known that women have contracted mesothelioma from washing their husband’s work clothes.  However, it is not so well known that asbestos dust brought into the home can remain there in carpets, drapes, and furnishings, where family members live and children play.

It is the invisible dust that poses the most danger.

A Brief or Low Level Exposure Is Enough

Even a brief or low level of exposure to asbestos is enough to cause malignant mesothelioma.  These types of exposure are very real, and they can have disastrous consequences.  There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, but you cannot recall ever having been exposed to asbestos – do not be so certain.  It is your attorney’s work to investigate all possibilities, and our team is prepared to do just that.  Although this can be a frustrating and sometimes daunting part of our work, in most cases this is not an unsolvable mystery.  In almost all cases of mesothelioma, there has been asbestos exposure in the patient’s past.

For more information on hidden asbestos exposures, please visit our Mesothelioma Knowledge Center.

Asbestos Removal and Disposal: A Continuing Hazard

Most Americans now know that asbestos is a dangerous mineral which can cause respiratory diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.  For many years, however, asbestos was used in a wide variety of products such as drywall, insulation, cement, tile, electrical cable, brake pads and even cooking utensils, to name just a few.   Many companies continued to use asbestos in their products well into the 1980s and 90s, even after they knew that it was hazardous.

Today, we can still find asbestos in older homes, schools, mills, factories, and other commercial buildings.  If it is not handled properly, this asbestos may present a health risk to our communities.

This is a matter of special concern to me as a mesothelioma lawyer.  For more than 30 years, I have represented workers and families who were exposed to asbestos through industrial use in the past.  It is critical that we take steps to make sure that people are not exposed to asbestos in the future.

Dealing With Asbestos Today

Although asbestos was a cheap material to use, it isn’t necessarily cheap to remove.  Asbestos inspections and removal can be timely and expensive.  For example, some large buildings that contain high levels of asbestos cannot simply be demolished; asbestos-containing materials must be removed piece by piece.

Recently, I read some disturbing stories which brought my attention to a rarely discussed step in asbestos removal – disposal.  Asbestos today is often classified as hazardous waste, and not all facilities will accept asbestos-containing materials.  As a result, people may find it easier to illegally dump asbestos in public areas.  This can pose a serious problem for those in the surrounding area who may just see a harmless pile of debris.  In addition, those who may be ultimately called upon to remove the debris may also be at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers.

Encouraging Safe Asbestos Removal and Disposal

It is so important that we create accessible and affordable channels to make safe asbestos removal practical.  We cannot make the process so difficult or expensive that people are encouraged to take shortcuts when dealing with this very serious problem.  Moreover, we cannot afford to have accurate inspections, thorough removal, and then fail in safely disposing harmful asbestos materials.  We must succeed in all stages, from the initial inspection for asbestos to its disposal, it is important that the diligence continues throughout the entire process to ensure the safety of those who may have contact with these materials.

 Society’s Position Toward Asbestos

As a mesothelioma lawyer, I have been helping asbestos victims and their families for over three decades, and I have seen a giant shift in attitude of our society when it comes to asbestos.  Through litigation efforts, we have successfully deterred asbestos manufacturers from continuing to produce asbestos-containing products, and we have raised awareness of asbestos in our communities.

Today, we see asbestos-related problems being treated with the gravity they require.  Together, we have managed to change some very harmful actions and attitudes, but the remnants of those decisions are still present today.  Therefore, we must continue to be mindful and thorough in removing asbestos from our environment to help mitigate potential asbestos-related illnesses in the future.