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Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is almost always caused by previous exposure to asbestos. There is a latency period of approximately fifteen to fifty years between initial exposure to asbestos and the development of this deadly disease. For many laborers who worked during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in shipyards, power plants and in industries that used asbestos in their manufacturing process, symptoms of this disease are just beginning to surface. Mesothelioma affects individuals who have worked with and inhaled asbestos fibers for a prolonged period of time. There are instances, however, of individuals being diagnosed with mesothelioma many years after a brief, intense encounter with asbestos during employment at a summer job. There are also accounts of secondary exposure of a wife laundering her husband’s work clothing, and of children being exposed to asbestos dust on the clothing of a family member. Duration and intensity of exposure are two important factors relative to asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Mesothelioma occurs when malignant cells develop in the lining of the chest cavity, abdominal cavity or the cavity around the heart. Mesothelial cells also cover the outer surface of most of the body’s internal organs. The tissue formed by these cells is called mesothelium. The mesothelium acts as a protective layer for the organs by producing a special lubricating fluid that allows organs to shift. This fluid is especially important for the lungs, as it allows the lungs to expand and contract inside the chest cavity. The mesothelium of the chest is called the pleura and the mesothelium of the abdomen is called the peritoneum. The mesothelium that lines the heart is called the pericardium.
The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the thin membrane lining the lungs. As asbestos fibers are inhaled and travel through the lung, they become lodged in the pleural membrane. Scientists are still researching the exact mechanism that causes mesothelioma, but it is believed that asbestos fibers cause cellular damage to the pleural membrane which causes the membrane to thicken and fluid to develop. As these cancerous cells continue to divide and multiply inside the pleural lining, a tumor forms. Mesothelioma is not caused by smoking.
As early as the 1920s, the asbestos industry and a majority of the corporations that manufactured asbestos-containing products were aware of the health hazards associated with inhaling asbestos fibers. Since asbestos was inexpensive to mine, easy to transport and held excellent chemical and physical properties, it was widely used in the manufacturing process and in a variety of products. Many corporations measured only their profit and did not consider other alternatives to incorporating asbestos in their products. As a result many people were exposed to asbestos and died of lung cancer or mesothelioma as a result.
The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC devote a significant amount of their practice to representing victims of asbestos exposure. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we can help you obtain financial compensation to pay for your medical bills and lost income, and to provide financial support for your family. We urge you to contact us today regarding your legal rights.