5 Most Common Ways People Are Exposed to Asbestos

Until about four decades ago, most structures in Hawaii were built with material containing asbestos, including the state’s military bases, state buildings, homes and even schools.

While the health risks from these materials are well-known today, the use of asbestos – while highly regulated in Hawaii – is still allowed in certain products, creating serious risk for anyone who comes in contact with them.

Asbestos is composed of six minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into extremely fine threads for commercial and industrial uses. The fibers are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals and do not conduct electricity.

The U.S. Never Banned Asbestos. These Workers are Paying the Price.

The stories about the dangers of asbestos exposure are horrifying and all too common: mesothelioma, lung, laryngeal and ovarian cancer, and ultimately death. But despite the well-known risks of the dangerous and deadly carcinogenic fibers, the United States still has not banned asbestos.

While dozens of other countries have outlawed asbestos, the United States allows hundreds of tons each year from Brazil to benefit two major chemical companies, OxyChem and Olin Corp. The companies say asbestos is crucial to chlorine production and that their protocols for handling it keep workers safe from exposure. But those workers claim otherwise.

More than a dozen former workers from OxyChem’s plant in Niagara Falls, New York, told ProPublica that asbestos dust hung in the air, collected on the beams and light fixtures and built up inches thick. Workers often were without protective suits or masks and the dust collected on their coveralls and boots.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Congress accepted the companies’ claims that workers were safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration let the companies into a special program that limited the frequency of inspections at their plants, ProPublica reported.

OxyChem declined ProPublica’s requests for an interview. The company said in a statement to ProPublica that it complies with federal regulations on asbestos and that workers who handle it are “trained, work in restricted areas of our plant, protected by personal protective equipment and are offered annual medical examinations.” The company also said it allows employees to stop work if they feel unsafe.

“The health and safety of every plant worker and the people in our surrounding communities is our top priority,” the company said.

Olin did not respond to calls and emails that ProPublica said it sent over the course of a month.

The former workers agreed to hours of interviews with ProPublica and recounted “ever-present asbestos dust with scant protection.”

Federal workplace safety standards require keeping asbestos fibers wet to prevent them from going airborne, having workers wear protective equipment and containing the asbestos inside certain areas. OxyChem had rules in place, but the protocols failed to match reality at the Niagara Falls plant, according to more than a dozen workers who spoke to ProPublica.

Tanks of chlorine, caustic soda and hydrogen contained metal screens coated with layers of asbestos to keep the chemicals apart. When screens needed to be recoated, OxyChem workers used pressure washers, splattering asbestos everywhere. Then, they dipped the clean screen into a wet mixture containing new asbestos and cooked it in an oven until the asbestos hardened. They worked on one or two screens each day.

Asbestos wasn’t a problem when it was wet, but it would dry overnight. The next morning, the workers told ProPublica, it would be stuck to the ceiling and the walls. Clumps would roll across the floor and floating particles could be seen in the air.

There was so much asbestos in the cell-maintenance building that it was impossible to keep it all wet, said Robert Cheff, who worked at the plant from 1981 to 2007. “We were constantly swimming in this stuff.”

Workers wore protective gear for certain tasks, like pressure washing and screen dipping. But they went into the building to carry out other tasks without special suits or anything protecting their faces, despite company requirements. One worker said managers enforced those rules. But a dozen others interviewed by ProPublica recalled that the bosses looked the other way.

The stories shocked six experts in industrial hygiene and occupational health who were consulted by ProPublica.

“Totally unacceptable,” said Rachael Jones, professor and chair of the Environmental Health Sciences Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Fraught with danger,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a public health physician trained in occupational medicine and epidemiology who leads Boston College’s program for Global Public Health and the Common Good.

Workers with a high risk of exposure sometimes clipped a small monitor to their bodies to measure the amount of asbestos in the air around them. At least five times in 2001 and 2002, the levels around Patrick Nowak exceeded OSHA’s exposure limit, ProPublica said his company records show. “I failed so many times, they quit testing me,” he said.

Tony Garfalo wore a monitor seven times in 2001, and, on four occasions, the results exceeded OSHA’s limit, his records show. Once, the asbestos level was more than five times the allowable limit.

Under the Biden administration, the EPA determined that all workers in asbestos-dependent chlorine plants faced an “unreasonable risk” of getting sick from it, citing a review of the companies’ own exposure-monitoring data. EPA Administrator Michael Regan proposed a ban for the first time in more than three decades. But it could be months before the rule is finalized and the chemical industry has vowed to fight it.

How We Help Victims of Asbestos Exposure

Seek justice with the help of our experienced asbestos attorneys. Our asbestos law firm has represented individuals like you affected by asbestos exposure for over 20 years, aggressively fighting the corporate giants responsible for their dangerous products. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos or suffered from a disease caused by asbestos, like mesothelioma, we can help.

Recognizing Symptoms of Mesothelioma: The Earlier, The Better

According to the American Cancer Society, about 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually. The current consensus is that mesothelioma is an incurable form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium or lining of certain internal organs.

There are three main types of mesothelioma to watch out for based on the location of the mesothelium affected: pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue surrounding the lungs; peritoneal mesothelioma, which attacks the membrane around the stomach; and the last type is located in the lining of the heart, known as pericardial mesothelioma. Each of these forms of mesothelioma has its own targeted set of symptoms to monitor.

While mesothelioma may currently be incurable, it is possible to prolong survival and improve patients’ quality of life by managing their symptoms as long as they catch it early enough. The following addresses the types of the cancer and the question, what are the symptoms of mesothelioma.

  • Pleural mesothelioma’s symptoms such as chest pain, painful coughing or trouble swallowing, and shortness of breath can be expected for a disease that specifically affects lung tissue. Pleural mesothelioma may also come with unexplained weight loss, abnormal lumps on the chest area, or even swelling in the face or arms.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma shares similar symptoms, such as breathing difficulty, irregular heart rhythm, and chest pains due to the location in the chest area.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma’s symptoms similarly appear linked to the location in the abdomen, which include abdominal pain, swelling in the stomach, nausea, constipation, and unexplained weight loss.
  • Some of the generalized mesothelioma symptoms across all types of the disease that may manifest are fever, excessive sweating, fatigue, blood clots, and loss of appetite.

While many of these symptoms sound incredibly common, especially during a global pandemic that affects the respiratory system, it is crucial to get them checked out by a doctor if you notice any of these warning signs persisting or anything out of the usual. It is imperative to monitor your health for these signs if you have a history of asbestos exposure.

Doctors often arrive at a mesothelioma diagnosis by accident during other routine screenings or X-rays. Although, advancements in health science have revealed that people with mesothelioma have high levels of substances like fibulin-3 and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs). Measuring for these substances can be another way to reach an early diagnosis. The best method to catch mesothelioma early is in scenarios where patients can tell their doctors if they have been exposed to asbestos, the toxic fiber with a known causal link to the disease.

However, there are many cases where people are unaware of their asbestos exposure. It can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years for symptoms to manifest after the initial exposure to asbestos. By that time, the cancer has usually spread. Signs including fatigue, chest pain, and weight loss do not typically appear until mesothelioma has already progressed. Pressure on the nerves or other parts of the body typically occurs in stage 3 or 4 mesothelioma cases. Additionally, these symptoms are often misdiagnosed as more common conditions, which can cause further delay. Therefore, it becomes that much more important to pay attention once those symptoms present themselves in order to seek proper treatment as soon as possible.

The History of Asbestos: From Discovery to Personal Injury

Asbestos is a well-known toxic substance now, but the origins of its usage date back thousands of years before it was known to cause diseases like mesothelioma. Some countries like the U.S. have continued to use it in a lesser capacity despite this risk. The start of its use in other durable products such as pottery mixes dates back to 2500 B.C. in Finland. However, the first discovery of its toxicity did not come until 61-112 A.D. when an Ancient Roman scholar studied slaves who became ill working the asbestos mines. It would still take another 2,000 years before scientists would connect asbestos and the illness it causes.

The revelation of the illness caused by asbestos was not made before the toxic mineral’s introduction to the American industry in 1858 when the Johns Company began mining it for use in insulation. The Industrial Revolution further fueled its production and use throughout North America, noting the first industrial asbestos mine opening in Canada in 1879. It was not until 1918 that the U.S. government would recognize the risk of asbestos shortening the life spans of those who worked with the material.

In 1930, the illness known as asbestosis was discovered in connection to asbestos exposure by Dr. Edward Merewether. As a result, industry regulations were placed on British asbestos factories. Still, they did not include the other industries that handled the substance or were involved in its installation. Asbestosis would not be reported in America for another three years. Not until the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company found asbestosis in 29% of workers in an asbestos factory leading to lawsuit settlements.

Asbestosis would not be the only long-term illness in connection with asbestos exposure. Researchers first discovered the link between asbestos exposure and cancer in 1934. The warnings for this risk of cancer relative to asbestos would not come until 1942. A year later, the first mesothelioma-like tumor was reported in Germany. By 1949, asbestos is widely understood to be harmful. Despite this acceptance, the asbestos industry will continue to ignore the warnings of health risks through the 1960s and actively bury or alter the negative research reports before they could reach the public.

The good news is that they did not get away with covering up the dangers of asbestos forever. Eventually, in 1967, the first successful personal injury claim in the U.K. was established. Additional rules closely followed in 1969, which saw the expansion of regulation beyond just the manufacturing process to include every industry that used asbestos. These regulations included requiring the use of exhaust ventilation, protective equipment, and improved handling procedures. While these improvements were welcome, it was not enough to eliminate asbestos-related diseases.

When Congress approved the Clean Air Act, it allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant. Like the U.K., the U.S. only saw increased regulation after the first successful personal injury claim regarding asbestos in 1971. It would not make any further significant changes until 1989 when the EPA began to phase out asbestos use in almost all products in the U.S. Meanwhile, the U.K. would only be a decade away from a complete ban of asbestos across the board. Despite the shift away from asbestos that the EPA was attempting to make, the U.S. Courts overturned the EPA Asbestos Ban in 1991 due to pressure from asbestos industry lobbyists. The powerful influence of the asbestos industry is why asbestos can still be found in products manufactured today.

Mesothelioma 101: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Vs. Mesothelioma

When it comes to lung disease, it can be easy to get confused about the types of cancers and treatments available. However, mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are different diseases with different treatment plans, although some symptoms may be similar, and both have been linked to asbestos exposure.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that typically forms in the lining around the lungs, although it can also form in the tissue surrounding the heart or the abdomen. As with any cancer, it can spread to the lungs and other parts of the body, but it is not considered a lung cancer.

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma. This cancer develops many years after exposure and has a low survival rate.

What Is NSCLC? 

NSCLC is one of two types of lung cancer. The cancerous cells tend to be larger (as opposed to the cells in small cell lung cancer) and always start in the lungs. There are multiple types of NSCLC, which may dictate different treatment plans.

What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma and NSCLC?

Both cancers cause breathing symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough or coughing up blood
  • Respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Pain in the chest, back, and shoulders
  • Fluid buildup around the lungs

This isn’t an exhaustive list of symptoms of either type of cancer, but if you or someone you love is experiencing frequent lung or breathing problems, you should consult a physician, especially if you may have been exposed to asbestos.

Because the symptoms are so similar, it is essential to see a doctor to get a definitive diagnosis.

How Are Mesothelioma and NSCLC diagnosed?

Whether done by a primary care physician or a specialist after a referral, diagnosis of cancers in and around the lung typically includes X-rays or other types of imaging to see whether and where tumors may have formed. Mesothelioma tumors usually form as a group of small tumors in the pleura surrounding the lungs. NSCLC tends to develop as single tumors inside the lungs.

Physicians may also test phlegm to look for cancer cells and take biopsies of affected areas to help diagnose the patient. It is also possible to develop both types of cancer or for cancer to form in the lungs after it has spread from other parts of the body, which is why exhaustive testing will help physicians create a complete picture of the disease and which treatments may be effective.

How Are These Cancers Treated?

Different cancers respond to different treatments.

If diagnosed early, mesothelioma and NSCLC can be treated through surgery.

Mesothelioma surgery involves removing the lining around the lungs, abdomen, or both, depending on which part of your body has been affected. Even if the pleura isn’t removed, physicians may need to perform surgery to remove fluid buildup around the lungs or other organs.

Surgery for NSCLC focuses on removing the tumor and possibly part of the affected lung. It may be necessary to remove an entire lung. When removing just the tumor, your physician will work to ensure that they leave a clean margin around it, meaning that not a single cancer cell remains in the tissue left in the body. If they do not get a clean margin, another surgery may be necessary to ensure complete removal.

Treatment may also involve chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments kill cancer cells but may also damage healthy cells in the body.

Immunotherapy is another treatment option. This therapy stimulates the immune system to fight cancer cells.

Targeted therapy is still another possible treatment. This treatment targets the proteins in the cancer cells that tell them how to grow, divide and spread.

Physicians may combine these treatments to achieve the best results depending on the type of cancer a patient has.

Patients may also choose to participate in trials of new treatments, especially if their cancer isn’t responding to currently approved therapies.

How We Help Victims of Asbestos Exposure

Seek justice with the help of our experienced asbestos attorneys. Our asbestos law firm has represented individuals like you affected by asbestos exposure for over 20 years, aggressively fighting the corporate giants responsible for their dangerous products. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos or suffer from a disease caused by asbestos-like mesothelioma, we can help.

KHON2: Woman Sues J&J for Mesothelioma Diagnosis

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The attorneys representing a Hawai‘i Island woman diagnosed with mesothelioma are suing Johnson & Johnson and Foodland Super Market, Ltd., for selling talc-based Johnson & Johnson baby powder which was contaminated with asbestos. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer whose only known cause is asbestos exposure.

The lawsuit was filed in the First Circuit Court Thursday morning on behalf of Jacqueline Becker who was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in February.

“Johnson & Johnson’s own internal testing showed as early as the 1950s that the talcum powder it marketed to women and children was contaminated with asbestos. The company had a responsibility to warn the public, but they failed to do so and now thousands of people are sick,” said Ilana Waxman, managing partner of Galiher DeRobertis & Waxman [and lawyer for Becker].

Watch the KITV4 video coverage here.

Big Island woman claims that her rare form of cancer was caused by Johnson & Johnson product
Read the full article here.


The Cosmetic Industry: Where Pre-Approval is Not Required

Possible asbestos in Claire’s makeup serves as a reminder of “lenient” oversight in the cosmetic industry

Claire’s dismisses claims of alleged asbestos-contaminated makeup after a Rhode Island mother reports finding asbestos in her child’s makeup. Becoming concerned about the ingredients in the makeup, Kristi Warner sent in samples to an independent lab for testing in North Carolina. The results showed that the glitter makeup kit contained tremolite asbestos. In a follow-up, 17 more Claire’s products from nine different states were sent in for further testing. All of the products tested positive for tremolite asbestos.

In an initial response to the investigation, Claire’s removed the items from store shelves. Upon conducting their own testing, Claire’s claims that “the products in question are asbestos free.”

What is Asbestos?

Tremolite asbestos has been associated with the development of mesothelioma, a malignant form of cancer that lines the chest, abdominal cavity, or heart. While the makeup in question was used by a child, the average age of a mesothelioma patient is between 50 and 70 years old as the latency period for the disease is up to 30 or 40 years.

The U.S. government does not require cosmetic products and ingredients to have FDA approval via any sort of clearance process prior to them going to market and it does not require that labeling of asbestos content in cosmetic component ingredients be made public.

Talc, a common ingredient in cosmetic products, baby powder, and many other products, has repeatedly been found to be contaminated with asbestos. Individuals who have used asbestos-contaminated products and later developed mesothelioma have brought suit against manufacturers that utilize talc in their products, such as Johnson & Johnson.

What are Cosmetics and How are They Monitored?

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body . . . for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering appearance.” While cosmetics are not FDA-approved, they are regulated. Under the law, cosmetics must not be “adulterated” or “misbranded.” In other words, cosmetics must be safe for consumers when used according to directions on the label, or in the customary or expected way, and they must be properly labeled. Companies and individuals who market cosmetics have a legal responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products.

Asbestos: Where the U.S. Stands in the World

In comparison to many other countries, the United States can be defined as permissive when it comes
to asbestos.

Global Asbestos Awareness Week, running April 1-7, is an opportunity to increase awareness of asbestos and its dangers, advocate for a ban of asbestos, and promote prevention of asbestos-related diseases. So, where does the U.S. stand in the world on asbestos use and production? In the face of evidence demonstrating there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, the carcinogen has yet to be completely banned in the United States. In fact, it is still legal to import, use, and sell both raw asbestos and products made with it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented a notice to regulate asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1979, but in 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit disagreed with the ban saying that the EPA did not prove the ban was the “least burdensome alternative” in protecting the public.

Asbestos Across the World
The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked all countries throughout the world to eliminate asbestos-related disease and advises that the most effective way to do this is by stopping the use of all asbestos. Worldwide use has declined by 55% from its peak of 4.7 metric tons per year in 1980. However, 2 million metric tons per year are still used worldwide. Other countries without bans include Russia, China, and India with Canada committing to a ban by the end of 2018. But the question remains, why does an industrialized country such as the United States still allow a known carcinogen to be utilized while 60 other countries in the European Union (EU), including the United Kingdom, have banned it? Banning asbestos in the United States has been attempted over the years, but the asbestos companies have aggressively fought back, thwarting attempts to rid America of this deadly carcinogen.

Asbestos in the United States

The United States is now dependent on foreign countries for the source of its asbestos as production stopped in 2002 as a result of a drop in demand related to health and liability issues. Domestic use of asbestos was roughly 803,000 metric tons in 1973 compared with 300 metric tons by 2017.

Issues with asbestos mainly arise when the fibers are disturbed and become airborne and are inhaled. The fibers, being large enough that they cannot be expelled from the lungs, are also sharp and penetrate the lungs. Health issues associated with asbestos include:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung Cancer
  • Asbestosis

Because of the long latency periods of asbestos-related diseases, even in countries that banned the use of asbestos early in the 1990s, the number of deaths continues to grow. Halting the use of the carcinogen now will result in a decrease only after decades have gone by, but it will still save many others from future exposure and disease.

Global Asbestos Awareness week serves as a timely reminder of the necessity to remain vigilant in not only educating the public on the dangers of asbestos but continuing to push for a ban—the only true protection.

Asbestos in the United Kingdom

Based on reports linking exposure to asbestos dust and fibers with mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer deaths, the British Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stands for the rigorous control of asbestos. The HSE is the body responsible for the regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety, and welfare, as well as research into occupational risks in the UK. In fact, the HSE does not believe that any minimum threshold exists for exposure to asbestos below which a person is at zero risk of developing mesothelioma. To that end, it is illegal to supply any article containing asbestos, whether for money or free of charge, in the UK.

When Consumer Safety Does Not Seem to Matter

AAJ article highlights the ongoing problem with corporations choosing money over honesty and consumer safety.

The American Association for Justice’s (AAJ) newest report highlights corporate misconduct and how it impacts the average U.S. citizen’s everyday life. A consistent lack of transparency from these corporations demonstrates how “when corporations put profits before safety and customer and employee welfare, and the regulatory system proves unable to force change, the civil justice system is the last line of defense to protect consumers.”

Failure to Warn

Companies have both a moral and legal responsibility to warn consumers of potential dangers that can result from their products. Agrochemical company Monsanto decided to go in a different direction. Company emails that came to light as part of litigation detail how a Monsanto executive suggested ghostwriting scientific reports. Those reports eventually led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conclude that Roundup, a weed killer composed of glyphosate, did not cause cancer.

Lack of Transparency

When a company markets products that are intended to be used for the well-being of its consumers but fails to inform consumers of its products’ safety hazards, that lack of transparency can have dire consequences. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) faced six of the seven largest dangerous-product verdicts in 2016 and faced numerous more in 2017. The following areas of litigation recently involved J&J:

    • Xarelto

This blood thinner, also known as rivaroxaban, has been associated with more than 370 deaths according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nevertheless, J&J continues to profit making over $2.29 billion from this drug alone.

  • Risperdal
    Risperdal is an antipsychotic drug used to treat certain mental/mood disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability associated with autism. The pharmaceutical company also illegally marketed it as an aide to manage the behavior of elderly nursing home residents, people with mental disabilities, and children. Scientific evidence has shown that teens who use Risperdal are five times more likely to develop gynecomastia—the appearance of female breast tissue. In some of the over 18,000 cases against J&J, the company is accused of concealing evidence that shows gynecomastia rates with Risperdal use are much higher than the company initially claimed.
  • Transvaginal Mesh
    Ethicon, a J&J division, marketed its transvaginal mesh as a low-cost way to treat urinary incontinence for women. What the company failed to disclose is the serious risk of injury associated with the product.
  • Artificial Hips
    When DePuy, a J&J division, first introduced their product in 2005, doctors reported shedding of metallic debris leading to infection, fractures, and nerve damage. Company executives talked about fixing the design flaw, but in the end, chose not to. The artificial hips even failed internal tests, and 40 percent were predicted to fail within five years of implantation. Even after surgeons working with DePuy halted use of the hips, the company continued selling them.

DePuy did not stop sales of the artificial hips until 2010 and then blamed it on poor sales rather than medical complications. Subsequently, juries have returned substantial verdicts in trials where plaintiffs have claimed DePuy failed to properly warn patients and doctors that the devices would fail prematurely.

Aggressive Marketing Tactics

McKesson Corporation has turned opioids into a $13 billion-a-year industry by distributing pain medicines across the country even though the company was aware of the drugs’ highly addictive nature and the fact that they are sold on the black market. Opioids work by attaching to and activating opioid pain receptor proteins, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When these drugs attach to their receptors, they inhibit the transmission of pain signals.

Distributors like McKesson have overlooked federal regulations requiring companies to report suspicious activity involving narcotic orders such as unusual size and/or frequency. Instead of following these regulations, the AAJ reports that opioid distributors “[f]looded [the] market with enough opioids to keep every person in America medicated around the clock for three weeks” and lined their pockets with money from the sales. According to a 2016 Washington Post report, at least 13 drug distributors knew or should have known that hundreds of millions of prescription opioids were hitting the black market, but continued to send the drugs.” Even when pressed by government regulators to have better oversight concerning distribution, McKesson spent over $100 million lobbying to pass a law that would make it almost impossible for the Drug Enforcement Agency to freeze any questionable narcotics shipments.

Time Ticks as Claim Window Nears Closing in Libby, Montana

Time is running out as the statute of limitations winds down for victims of asbestos related illnesses.

The three year statute of limitations allowing possible recovery for those who developed asbestos-related diseases as a result of living and working in Libby, Montana is set to expire on February 25, 2018. While the statute of limitations in Montana to file a personal injury claim is three years from the date of diagnosis, because of W.R. Grace & Co.’s bankruptcy filing, the statute did not begin until February 25, 2015.

The Back Story Over three quarters of the vermiculite in the world was produced from a mine in Libby. The mineral was discovered to be in a mountain in 1919 and bought by W.R. Grace & Co. in 1963. It turned out to be, what seemed at the time, a perfect material for loft and wall insulation, fire-proofing, and soil conditioner. However, along with the vermiculite was substantial contamination with a dangerous form of asbestos occurring naturally within the mineral.

The Time Line In the beginning, lawsuits were given a narrow time to file as the statute of limitations in Montana required plaintiffs to file personal or wrongful death cases within three years of learning about any facts leading them to file claim. However, in 1995, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that workers who became sick could still file, permitting they were able to show the company harmed them intentionally.

In 1999, news reports publicized a direct connection between the vermiculite mine and the many people who were ill and even dying due to exposure to asbestos dust in Libby. In 2001, W.R. Grace & Co. filed for bankruptcy protection, but now that the company has come out of its bankruptcy, anyone diagnosed prior to February 25, 2015, with an asbestos-related disease who lived in Lincoln County for at least six months has until February 25 of this year to file a claim.

What is Asbestos? Known for its fire-retardant properties, asbestos is a fibrous material that was once used in insulating and construction products across the U.S. It creates a fine dust when handled and inhaled that can cause deadly illnesses.

The problem is that the two most commonly noted asbestos-related diseases, asbestosis and mesothelioma, have latency periods of up to 40 years. This means that some people may not be diagnosed until after the statute of limitations runs out and without them even being aware they have any damages. As such, many people who have yet to be diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, will have no recompense after February 25th.

Asbestosis is a lung disease specifically caused by inhaling asbestos dust. It can be fatal in some cases as it produces inflammation and scarring in one’s lungs and can be an early sign of mesothelioma. Malignant Mesothelioma is a cancer in which malignant cells line the chest, abdominal cavity, or heart. On average, a mesothelioma patient is between 50 and 70 years of age. Even during trial Dr. Alan Whitehouse, a pulmonologist diagnosing Libby area patients said, “I don’t think we’ll see the last of these until 2030 and maybe longer.”

This is because mine workers were not the only people at risk for developing a deadly asbestos related disease such as pleural mesothelioma. When mine workers came home from work, they brought with them asbestos-laden clothes, unwittingly exposing their family members to asbestos dust particles. Perhaps even worse is the fact that children in Libby played amongst the vermiculite slag that W.R. Grace donated to four schools to make running tracks, an ice rink and two junior baseball pitches.