Many assume that asbestos disease afflicts only retirees or those approaching retirement age. There is a misconception that asbestos disappeared from the work environment when stricter government regulations were enacted in the early 1970s. This is only partially true. While some products containing asbestos, such as pipe covering and spray applied fireproofing, were phased out in the early 1970s, many more continued to be sold and used for years, and, in some cases, decades. In addition to this oversight, Congress enacted legislation inadequate to address the threat posed by asbestos: the new laws merely regulated the sale of new products without requiring the removal of the millions of tons of asbestos already present in homes and public buildings built in previous decades. Asbestos disturbed through renovation, remodeling or improper removal can cause serious illness as it deteriorates.
As we continue to represent asbestos victims, we have noticed an alarming trend: some of our clients are being diagnosed with mesothelioma at a much younger age, in some instances as young as in their thirties and forties. It is generally accepted in reputable medical and scientific literature that the onset of mesothelioma can occur twenty or thirty years after a person is first exposed to asbestos fibers. Prevailing medical reports also suggest that there is no safe level of exposure to this mineral, and several reports have documented the development of mesothelioma in persons after as little as a single exposure to asbestos. Sadly, we represent some clients who are just now being diagnosed with mesothelioma, and exposed to asbestos in the 1970’s and 1980’s. These unfortunate people worked in a variety of occupations and were exposed to a wide range of asbestos products, including joint compound used to finish drywall, asbestos gaskets and packing used in valves and pumps and brake linings found in automobiles and trucks.
Serious illness is always a tragedy. But the tragedy is magnified when mesothelioma strikes a young person. Someone diagnosed during his active working years must fight for his life while desperately worrying about how to continue to financially support his spouse and school-age children. Recently, we represented a single father in his mid-40s who was raising two teenage sons on his own. At the time of his diagnosis, our client was working as a salesman. He had been employed throughout the 1980s as a truck painter maintaining the fleet of a major trucking company. During the ten years he spent with the trucking company, he did not personally use any materials containing asbestos, but he worked in the same garage where mechanics repaired and replaced brake shoes on large eighteen-wheel trucks and trailers. Even though he was not directly working with asbestos brakes, his breathable airspace was contaminated with asbestos dust because the mechanics he was working with would disassemble brakes and use compressed air to clean the brake assemblies on large trucks before installing new asbestos-containing brake shoes.
Our client’s exposure to asbestos took place in the 1980s, even though asbestos substitutes were by then available to brake and truck manufacturers. Because the asbestos defendants failed to use asbestos-free brake shoes and failed to adequately warn their workers that the brakes they were working on still contained asbestos, Lipsitz & Ponterio was able to negotiate a significant cash settlement that will enable the family to pay for his children’s college education and more.
Because asbestos is still present in many buildings, workers and parents of school-age children should take care to prevent exposure to asbestos and the illnesses exposure can cause. If you suspect building materials containing asbestos are present in your home or work place, it is best not to attempt to remove the toxic material yourself. You should use a contractor certified in proper asbestos removal. If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, you should notify your private doctor so that he or she may monitor your health for asbestos-related changes. If you or someone you love is diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related cancer, you should contact us immediately so that we can help safeguard your legal rights.