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Decades After Discovery of Asbestos Risk, Mesothelioma Still a Silent Killer

09-06-2006 03:25 PM CET | Health & Medicine

Press release from: The Lanier Law Firm

More than 30 years after the dangers of asbestos became commonly known, new cases of mesothelioma—a rare and deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure—are still being diagnosed.

One reason is that mesothelioma can take up to 40 years to develop. So workers who came into contact with asbestos in the late 1960s and early 1970s may only now be starting to show symptoms. Asbestos had been used in many industrial and insulation materials as a fire retardant.

Another reason is that, despite the clear connection to this deadly disease, asbestos has not been categorically banned in the United States. Although most industrialized countries have banned asbestos, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempted to ban the substance in 1989, a federal court ruling overturned major portions of the ban. Under the ruling, new uses of asbestos were banned, but many already existing uses of asbestos were not.

Consequently, thousands of Americans remain at risk for mesothelioma. Even low exposure levels of the tiny fibers or asbestos dust are very dangerous. The disease is caused when the dust or fibers are inhaled and travel to the ends of small air passages and reach the pleura, the thin transparent membrane that lines the chest wall and covers the lungs. Once they reach the pleura, they cause physical damage to mesothelial cells, which may result in cancer. If swallowed (rather than inhaled), these fibers can reach the abdominal cavity where they have a role in causing peritoneal mesothelioma.

Most asbestos exposure occurs in the workplace, although some mesothelioma patients were exposed when a family member brought the asbestos fibers home on his clothes. Likewise, residents who live near facilities may also be at risk because asbestos dust can easily be carried by the wind over long distances. Additionally, the demolition of buildings that contain asbestos can release the dust into the environment, and trucks hauling the materials can further spread the fine asbestos fibers.

The following occupations pose a risk of exposure to asbestos, which may develop into mesothelioma: manufacturing of asbestos products (insulation, roofing, building, materials); vehicle repair (brakes & clutches); construction workers and contractors; maritime workers; miners and drillmen; offshore rust removals; oil refinery workers; power plants; railway workers; sand or abrasive manufacturers; shipyards / ships / ship builders; steel mills; and tile cutters.

Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to many other ailments, particularly pneumonia. Symptoms include:

• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Persistent cough
• Swelling of the face and neck
• Coughing up blood
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Nausea

Some mesothelioma patients do not display any of the above symptoms. If you have been exposed to asbestos—either on the job or through a family work works in at-risk industries—consult your doctor.

The Lanier Law Firm

Press Contact: Patrick Haines

Houston Law Office
6810 FM 1960 West
Houston, Texas 77069
(713) 659-5200
(713) 659-2204 – Fax

New York Law Office
Lanier Law Firm, PLLC
Tower 56
126 East 56th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10022
(212) 421-2800
(212) 421-2878 – Fax

The Lanier Law Firm has significant experience working on behalf of those with mesothelioma and other victims of asbestos exposure. In 1998, the firm obtained a substantial recovery on behalf of 21 steelworkers who contracted asbestos disease at an Alabama steel mill (Aaron, et al. v. Abex, et al, February 1998). The jury found the defendants liable for marketing and design defects in the wheel, negligence, gross negligence and malice. Contact us for more information at

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