Asbestos-related disease is undoubtedly one of the most common occupational illnesses affecting workers in the United States. Individuals living or working in Union County, or anywhere else in North Carolina, are not immune to this health hazard. That being said, a large portion of individuals who are suffering from asbestos-related illnesses were not exposed to the toxic substance over the course of their employment. As a result, these individuals are unable to recover monetary damages through a workers’ compensation claim. Those who were exposed to asbestos at the workplace and became ill may be able to pursue a Monroe Union County personal injury claim instead of – or in addition to – a workers’ compensation claim.Asbestos in America
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Its use gained commercial popularity during the nation’s Industrial Age. This is because asbestos is cost-effective and has fire-retardant properties unlike other materials. For this reason, asbestos was heavily used in the United States in the automobile and construction industries as well as in the military.
Over the past several decades, however, scientific studies have shown that asbestos is a carcinogen; in other words, asbestos causes cancer. Indeed, scientific research as directly linked asbestos exposure to more than a dozen different medical diseases. Exposure to the toxic mineral generally occurs through inhalation of airborne asbestos particles. Exposure to asbestos can increase an individual’s risk of developing one or more of the following asbestos-related illnesses:
- Mesothelioma: The signature asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma generally develops in the lining of the lungs, stomach, heart, or testicles of the patient. Mesothelioma is most common in people who were exposed to asbestos in large quantities and over a long period of time. The average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma is less than one year from the date of diagnosis.
- Asbestosis: While it is not a form of cancer asbestosis is an incurable and chronic lung disease that causes scarring in the lungs and long-term breathing issues. Someone who is suffering from this disease may live for several years or decades. That being said, asbestosis is progressive causing patients to require increased medical assistance as they age.
- Lung cancer: Asbestos exposure causes different types of lung cancer aside from the lung cancer (known as pleural) of mesothelioma. Asbestos-related lung cancer is virtually identical to lung cancer with another underlying cause. General symptoms of all lung cancers include breathlessness, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain.
Thankfully, the use of asbestos has dropped significantly since the 1970s due to advances in scientific research linking the toxic mineral to deadly diseases. Moreover, laws have been put in place to protect workers that seek to limit and regulate the use of asbestos in materials. Nonetheless the majority of older building materials across the nation, including those in Monroe Union County, that have quantities of the toxic material are often still present in older building structures. The United States remains one of the few nations in the developed world that has yet to issue an outright ban of the use of asbestos.
As a result, there are still a large number of individuals today that are exposed to harmful levels of asbestos in Monroe Union County. This is particularly true for workers who are involved in renovation, repairs, demolition, removal, or maintenance of products that contain asbestos due to installation years ago. If the health hazard goes unnoticed and standards required by the nation’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) go unenforced, risks to workers handling materials containing asbestos can be considerable.
One issue unique to asbestos-related illnesses is that the time between the initial exposure to the hazard and when the disease is diagnosed – known as a latency period – is quite long. In fact, the latency period for mesothelioma can be anywhere between 20 and 50 years. The time frame depends upon the duration and intensity of the patient’s exposure to asbestos as well as other factors. Many patients are not diagnosed with mesothelioma until they are 60 or 70 years of age when the symptoms of the disease have become chronic or debilitating. Many of these affected individuals were exposed – primarily or secondarily – through activity on or near:
- Power plants;
- Steel mills;
- Military operations;
- Car mechanic operations;
- Pipe fitting; or
- Cleaning facilities.
While asbestos exposure typically happens on the job, it can also happen to non-employees through second-hand exposure from the air as well as asbestos-contaminated clothing and/or materials. There are several ways one can recover monetary compensation for asbestos-related illnesses including workers’ compensation claims, a personal injury claim against the employer, or a personal injury claim against the manufacturer.
If you or a loved one has contracted an illness related to asbestos exposure in Monroe Union County, it is important to speak with an attorney experienced in both workers’ compensation and personal injury right away. Both of these claims must be filed within specific amounts of time after a person discovers they have contracted the asbestos-related illness. The dedicated personal injury workers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are prepared to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.