Although asbestos is now known for its devastating effects on humans exposed to the harmful substance through their work, at their homes, and in other ways, it wasn’t until the early to mid-20th century, when it became increasingly popular for its durability, low cost, and resistance to fire, that it became used numerous applications, including construction, manufacturing, and other industrial processes and products.
Since the 1930s, millions of Americans have been exposed to and have died from asbestos. As studies revealed its devastating risks and regulations were passed to classify asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant, numerous claims were filed by victims and families who suffered illnesses and death as a result of exposure. Today, asbestos litigation is the longest and most expensive mass tort in American history and, given the latency period of mesothelioma and other related diseases (10 to 50 years after asbestos exposure), experts project increases in diagnoses through the next decade.
At The Daspit Law Firm, our Houston attorneys are committed to fighting on behalf of victims and families who have suffered due to asbestos exposure and the negligence of corporations that knew about its harmful nature. As we aid victims and families in understanding and protecting their rights when diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases – including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung diseases, and more – we also want to provide the information needed to understand risk factors and warning signs.
Exposure Risk Factors
Determining whether or not diseases are related to asbestos exposure often entails an evaluation of the victim’s history. Because asbestos was widely used in certain applications, there are individuals who face elevated risks of developing diseases due to their exposure levels. For example, occupational exposure is the most common risk factor in a majority of asbestos-related diseases. Common professions known for asbestos exposure include:
- Asbestos mining
- Shipyard and railroad workers
- Steel workers
- Trade and craftsmen
- Military, including the U.S. Navy
In addition to occupational exposure, many victims have developed diseases due to non-occupational exposure to asbestos:
- Second-hand exposure by families of workers in high risk professions
- Exposure to naturally occurring asbestos, including communities located near mines
- Homeowners and laborers who live in or performed work on homes or building built before the 1980s
- Homeowners who live in older homes, including those built during the 1930s to 1960s
One important factor to remember is that asbestos-related diseases are known for their prolonged latency, which means that it can take a great deal of time from first exposure to the manifestation of a disease. For many asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, signs and symptoms may not be apparent until 10 to 40 years, or even more, after exposure.
Identifying Signs and Symptoms
For those who know they have a history of asbestos exposure, or suspect they might, being aware of the signs and symptoms associated with mesothelioma and other diseases is critical, especially as the latency period would suggest that an asbestos-related disease may develop. Depending on the condition involved, there are some warning signs to watch for:
- Mesothelioma – Mesothelioma is a rare and serious form of cancer caused by asbestos fibers and years of exposure. Pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of mesothelioma, affects the lungs and can result in chest pain, fluid buildup, shortness of breath, anemia or fatigue, coughing, wheezing, and weight loss, as well as the development of tumor masses and lumps under the skin of the chest. Peritoneal mesothelioma may cause abdominal swelling and pain, fluid buildup in the abdomen, bowel function problems, and weight loss.
- Asbestosis – Asbestosis is a progressive condition caused by lung tissue that has been scarred by asbestos fibers. This scarring can result in breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath with physical activity, dry cough, and fatigue, as well as clubbing of the toes or fingers in some cases. It is also diagnosed through a signature crackling sound identified in the lungs, known as rales or basal crackles. Asbestosis has a latency period of 15 to 30 or more years after initial exposure, but can develop fully in as little as 7 years.
- Pleural disorders – When inhaled, asbestos fibers can damage the pleura, a thin layer of tissue surrounding the lungs, and cause a number of non-malignant pleural conditions, including pleural effusion (the accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity resulting in chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing) and pleural plaque (the formation of scar tissue plaques which can restrict breathing capacity and impair lung function).
Due to the serious and sometimes life-threatening nature of these diseases, it is critical for individuals with a known history of exposure to take proactive steps for their health, including medical monitoring and discussion of exposure with their doctor, and close evaluation of potential symptoms.
Protecting the Rights of Asbestos Exposure Victims
If you or someone you love has developed a disease caused by exposure to asbestos, or if you have lost a loved one due to an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, our legal team at The Daspit Law Firm is available to discuss your situation, rights, and whether you may have a valid toxic exposure claim. Asbestos exposure cases are notoriously difficult, and they demand the attention of experienced, detailed, and resourceful attorneys.
To learn more about your rights and options, contact us to speak with a Houston asbestos attorney during a free consultation.