“Cancer” is a scary word, but a diagnosis of mesothelioma cancer is particularly difficult because the disease is considered incurable. What’s worse, many people suffering from mesothelioma were exposed to the substance that can cause it – asbestos – on the job. And in many cases, companies knew about the dangers of asbestos and did nothing to warn workers.
What Did They Know?
Asbestos is a silicate mineral used in manufacturing due to its strength and resistance to heat and fire. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can get inside the membrane that lines the lung cavity, among other tissues. This can cause cells to divide abnormally, and the result is cancer. Another complication from asbestos exposure is asbestosis, which results when the lungs have become scarred from the inhalation of asbestos, resulting in breathing difficulties. The effects of asbestos exposure can’t be reversed; symptoms can only be managed.
As early as 1937, the American Petroleum Institute wrote a document warning about the dangers of industrial dust. Most manufacturers apparently didn’t care. Even the government failed to act until 1972, when the Occupational Health and Safety Administration enacted asbestos safety rules. Meanwhile, people who worked in industries like insulation manufacturing, shipbuilding, refining, construction and mining were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis.
Most often, people who develop this type of cancer get pleural mesothelioma, in which tumors grow along the lining of the pleural cavity that holds the lungs. It’s a particularly painful disease because tumors eventually press on the lungs, kicking off the effects of pleural effusion, wherein fluid rushes to the area. Other times, people develop mesothelioma in the lining around the heart (pericardial mesothelioma) or the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma). No matter the location, the prognosis of mesothelioma is the same: it will ultimately kill you.
Making Manufacturers Pay
In the last decade, mesothelioma patients and their families have sought to bring employers who knew about the danger to justice through legal action resulting in monetary settlements. Money will never restore a terminal cancer patient to health or bring back a lost loved one, but it helps pay bills and lost wages and sends the message that big business isn’t above the law. The good news is that many mesothelioma victims have received settlements ranging in the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars from major corporations in steel, oil and other industries.
It’s in large part because of mesothelioma lawsuits and their related investigations that proof has come to light about companies’ knowledge of asbestos dangers. It’s been shown that, rather than correcting the problem and protecting their employees, many companies chose to look the other way in the name of profit. They are now paying for that negligence to the tune of millions of dollars.