Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Its name comes from the part of the body the disease attacks: the mesothelium, which is the general name for the various thin, protective linings that envelop several different internal organs.
The lining between the lungs and inner chest wall, the pleura, is most commonly affected by the development of mesothelioma. The disease also occurs, with somewhat less frequency, in the peritoneum and the pericardium, respectively the linings surrounding the abdominal cavity and the heart.
Exposure usually occurs while working in a job that either involves direct contact with raw asbestos fibers (such as during the manufacturing process of asbestos-containing products or the cleanup in such operations); or during the utilization and manipulation of asbestos-containing products (such as grinding gaskets or cutting pipe), which may release asbestos dust into the air . While the development of mesothelioma is largely connected to workplace exposure, it is not strictly confined to it. Exposure can also occur in the home as a result of fibers that remain on the clothing of a family member exposed at work. Moreover, exposure can occur simply by living or working in close proximity to a work site where asbestos is heavily employed.
Because of increasing awareness of the hazard, more stringent governmental regulations and improved workplace conditions, the threat of asbestos and mesothelioma has diminished greatly. The latency period for mesothelioma, the time that elapses between exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of the cancer, is comparatively lengthy. The latency period is rarely less than fifteen years and can be as long as fifty years or more. It is entirely possible that an individual exposed to asbestos in the 1970s, 1960s, and even in the 1950s, could still develop mesothelioma today. Even though massive unregulated exposure to asbestos in heavy industry came to an end by the 1980s, people who were exposed before that time are still at risk due to the latent nature of the disease.
There is a scientific consensus that the annual incidence of mesothelioma in the United States has reached a plateau and will begin to decline over the next several years. Beginning in the 1980s, the number of people newly diagnosed with mesothelioma each year began to increase. That rate continued to climb steadily until very recently. Scientists and health professionals now believe that the annual incidence has reached its peak.
According to the New York State Department of Health’s website, our state has an annual incidence of mesothelioma of 1.8 per 100,000 males and 0.4 per 100,000 females. The rate in Erie County, due to its industrial history, is even higher, reaching 3.3 per 100,000 males and 0.5 per 100,000 females. Monroe County, while having a lesser incidence than Erie County, is still above the state average, marking 2.3 per 100,000 males and 0.6 per 100,000 females.
When a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is nothing short of devastating. While there are several options for treatment, particularly if the disease is found early, there is still no cure. Compounding a dreadful situation, many difficult and stressful questions require answers: What is the next step after diagnosis? What personal and family matters do I need to take care of? How will I pay my medical bills? How will my family be taken care of?
Some resolution can be reached by pursuing your legal rights. Many people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have potential claims against one or more parties responsible for their exposure to asbestos. Since the firm’s founding in 1995, our experienced attorneys have been at the forefront in helping claimants obtain the remedies to which they are entitled to under the law.
Hopefully, mesothelioma is on its way out. But until it is extinguished entirely, people diagnosed with this disease should keep their legal rights in mind. They are not alone in the fight to secure what is rightfully theirs.