June 2011 Archives

Military Veterans Suffering From Mesothelioma and Other Aggressive Diseases Caused by Asbestos Exposure

June 24, 2011

Veterans from every branch of the U.S. military were exposed to toxic asbestos-containing products during their years of service, resulting in hundreds of thousands of asbestos-related illnesses. New diagnoses continue every day. Sadly, 3,000 people will be diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011, and approximately 1,000 of them will be veterans.

Navy veterans are particularly at risk for an asbestos-related disease, because the dangerous mineral was used in every ship and shipyard that the Navy built from the 1930s through the 1970s. Asbestos could be found below deck in engine and boiler rooms, and above deck in sleeping quarters and mess halls. Pipes, adhesives, and many other parts used on ships and machinery also contained asbestos. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins find it tragic that so many men and women who devoted their lives to serving our country are now at risk for a serious or deadly asbestos illness.

Since mesothelioma symptoms can take decades to appear, many veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force may not even know that they are suffering from an asbestos-related disease. Most veterans diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma are at least 70 years of age, and by that time, the disease has already taken its toll. A new study by the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that the average survival rate for veterans who are diagnosed with mesothelioma is only seven months. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, and it is difficult to detect because early warning signs such as coughing and fatigue are frequently misdiagnosed as pneumonia or the flu.

Malignant mesothelioma is one of the most common asbestos-related illnesses, but veterans are also at risk for other incurable asbestos cancers. Asbestos lung cancer is another illness affecting the health of service members, especially veterans of the Vietnam War who were exposed to Agent Orange. Many Gulf War veterans are also starting to experience asbestos lung cancer problems, because they were exposed to depleted uranium and other deadly chemical agents. Studies show that tumors can form in the lungs two years after depleted uranium is inhaled, but these tumors can take several years to detect.

Unfortunately, the law does not allow veterans to hold the federal government responsible for asbestos exposure. And veterans must prove that their asbestos-related disease is linked to their service in order to qualify for disability payments. But an experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help veterans sue the companies that manufactured and sold dangerous asbestos products that made them sick. Although some of these companies are out of business or filed for bankruptcy to protect themselves from asbestos-related lawsuits, many still exist and are liable for compensating veterans and their loved ones. Veterans have the same legal rights as civilian employees to sue private companies whose negligence caused them to suffer an asbestos-related disease.

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Couple Blames Asbestos Lung Cancer on the Negligence of More Than 90 Companies

June 22, 2011

A West Virginia man and his wife are suing 91 manufacturers, distributors, and asbestos-product suppliers in an asbestos lung cancer case that highlights the dangers of asbestos exposure. Our mesothelioma lawyers understand that mesothelioma litigation is one of the most effective ways of holding negligent companies responsible for knowingly exposing workers to asbestos.

The latest lawsuit brought by Charles and Alicia Poloka claims that the defendants negligently exposed Charles to cancer-causing asbestos fibers on his job site, and failed to provide him with proper protective gear. After breathing in thousands of toxic asbestos fibers, Charles was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2010. This is another unfortunate example of gross negligence by a group of companies that showed reckless disregard for their actions and harmed an innocent, hard-working employee.

The deadly risk of asbestos exposure has been known for decades. Tragically, companies continue to wrongfully expose workers to this toxic substance that accumulates in the lungs and often results in death. Studies show that asbestos is a major cause of lung cancer, particularly among workers who smoke. But mesothelioma lung cancer can also strike asbestos-exposed workers who never smoked a day in their life. When asbestos is inhaled over long periods of time, it accumulates in the lungs and eventually causes a malignant tumor that obstructs air passages. A large number of asbestos-related cancer victims also suffer from asbestosis, a scarring of the lung tissue.

Asbestos exposure claims so many lives because decades typically pass before symptoms show, and many injured workers do not realize that they have a deadly asbestos illness in time to effectively treat it. Asbestos lung cancer symptoms are also frequently overlooked as signs of the flu or other less serious ailments. Employees who work in manufacturing or other industries where asbestos exposure is common should be on the lookout for difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, frequent coughing, or constant chest pains.

Mesothelioma lawsuits have helped many injured asbestos-exposed employees recover medical costs and loss of income because employers have a legal duty to provide a safe working environment. If an employer breaches that duty and creates an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm, the company is liable. Failing to shield employees from dangerous asbestos particles or, at the very least, provide them with warnings and protective gear, is negligence.

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More New York Firefighters Taking Disability Retirements in the Wake of 9/11 Asbestos Exposure

June 20, 2011

A new study reveals that New York firefighters exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos on September 11, 2001 are starting to show signs of terminal asbestos-related illnesses. The online American Journal of Industrial Medicine report found a surprising increase in the number of New York firefighters taking accidental disability retirements in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seven years prior to the attacks, about 48% of retiring New York firefighters took accidental disability retirements. Seven years after the attacks, that figure jumped to 66%. Our asbestos exposure lawyers understand that asbestos-related respiratory illnesses are largely responsible for the increase.

The World Trade Center towers were built long before federal asbestos restrictions were in place, and contained about 400 tons of asbestos. Sadly, many firefighters responding to the terrorist attacks did not wear adequate respiratory gear and suffered serious exposure to toxic asbestos fibers. In 2006, a New York Fire Department EMT died of asbestos-related mesothelioma cancer, and firefighters continue to experience respiratory problems.

Weeks after the tragic terrorist attacks, hazardous asbestos dust continued to fill the air. Thousands of firefighters and other emergency personnel inhaled massive amounts of carcinogens over a prolonged period of time and are still experiencing significantly abnormal lung function. In a New England Journal of Medicine study, researchers compared lung function tests from more than 12,700 New York firefighters and rescue personnel. A decade after 9/11, firefighters who worked at Ground Zero are 12 times more likely to experience abnormal lung function. These brave men and women inhaled dangerous amounts of airborne asbestos, putting them at serious risk for asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Respiratory diseases such as asbestos lung cancer are increasing the financial burden on the New York Fire Department's pension system. Accidental disability retirements are up to $826 million, driven by World Trade Center illnesses and injuries still being detected.

Although firefighters and other first responders are most at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers, other Ground Zero workers and volunteers were exposed to toxic asbestos fibers from 9/11 buildings. Tens of thousands of people lived and worked in the area of the World Trade Center, and many of them joined in the cleanup effort.

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Illinois Court Holds Employer Accountable for Housewife's Secondhand Asbestos Exposure

June 20, 2011

The health risks associated with exposure to toxic asbestos fibers are widespread. Every year 3,000 Americans die from mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the heart, lung, and stomach. Thousands of others who come into contact with asbestos eventually develop lung cancer or asbestosis.

Illinois Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have long helped to provide compensation for victims of serious asbestos-related diseases whose lives have been forever changed by asbestos exposure. Some of these victims did not work directly with asbestos, but had secondhand contact with someone who worked in an industry where asbestos was present. However, even indirect asbestos exposure can be fatal. Asbestos fibers attach to a worker's clothes, shoes, or hair putting everyone in the worker's home at risk. Hugging a worker who handles asbestos products or washing the worker's clothes can release asbestos into the air and lead to a life-threatening, asbestos-related illness.

An ongoing lawsuit in the Illinois Supreme Court highlights the dangers of secondhand asbestos exposure and places a responsibility on employers to warn family members of employees. As the Madison Record reports, Annette Simpkins filed a mesothelioma lawsuit in 2007 against her husband's employer. Simpkins contracted the disease after washing clothes that her husband brought home from B& O Railroad, where he worked as a steelworker, welder, and railroad fireman. The aggressive cancer killed Simpkins shortly after she filed suit, and her daughter carried on the case. In an unprecedented ruling, the Fifth Circuit ruled that an employer does have a duty to protect family members of workers who are exposed to asbestos. The court reasoned that exposure is both foreseeable and preventable.

It is likely that an employee who works with asbestos products will bring his clothes home and expose his family to the toxic fibers. But simple steps can reduce the risk of exposure, such as providing safety instructions, substituting other products, and requiring that employees take hygienic safety steps. This Illinois Mesothelioma case shows that employers who do not take reasonable steps to provide a safe environment for the family members of their employees will be held accountable. Family members have the right to be compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of income that results from an asbestos-related disease.

Other courts around the nation have similarly held employers responsible for "take-home" asbestos-related exposure. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman who died from mesothelioma after she was exposed to asbestos fibers from her father's clothing during childhood. The New Jersey Supreme Court also sided with a woman who contacted mesothelioma from asbestos fibers on her husband's clothing.

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Illinois Company Fined $1.2 Million for Failing to Protect Workers from Dangerous Asbestos

June 16, 2011

Illinois asbestos exposure attorneys have helped to ensure compensation for thousands of victims of asbestos-related illnesses, yet negligent companies continue to commit serious asbestos violations. Now a Cicero company is being forced to pay more than $1 million in fines for failing to protect its workers from asbestos exposure. This is another disturbing example of a local company that refused to take even the most basic safety precautions and exposed its employees to deadly asbestos fibers. Each year, more than 90,000 people die from asbestos exposure, and Illinois companies are increasingly to blame.

The latest violations by AMD Industries were revealed on May 25th by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency began investigating the Illinois company after a safety audit uncovered asbestos on boilers, heating units, and pipes. AMD ordered its workers to remove the asbestos products but it did not take reasonable steps to protect them from exposure to cancer-causing materials. It did not properly equip workers with protective clothing, warn them of the risks, or install protective respirators. Airborne concentrations of asbestos were left unmonitored throughout the entire removal process. Workers were allowed to cut asbestos-products with a reciprocating saw and the materials were not disposed of in sealed, airtight containers. These are blatant violations of agency regulations that are intended to shield employees from dangerous asbestos exposure. AMD's negligent actions put AMD employees and the entire general public at risk.

Illinois asbestos lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are encouraged by the fact that government regulators are taking steps to protect the public from toxic asbestos fibers, but it is clear to us that more needs to be done. Every day companies in Illinois and around the nation continue to endanger the lives of employees and other members of the public who are indirectly exposed to the hazardous mineral. Even small amounts of asbestos can create a risk for mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer. We have seen firsthand the impact that these deadly diseases can have on workers and their families. There is a risk of death or serious bodily harm for all victims of asbestos exposure.

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High School Football Star Loses His Life to Mesothelioma Disease

June 13, 2011

The recent mesothelioma death of 18-year-old Pasadena High School student Austin Lacy proves that this aggressive cancer is affecting people of all ages. Although mesothelioma is typically found in adults over the age of 50, a growing number of young people are being diagnosed. Sadly, people who are diagnosed with asbestos-related mesothelioma have a life expectancy of less than two years. There is no cure for the disease, but expensive tests and medical treatments may be required. Many mesothelioma victims and their families have successfully turned to an asbestos lawyer to help them secure compensation to pay medical bills. As the latest mesothelioma death illustrates, even our young children are vulnerable to this deadly disease.

Mesothelioma is commonly associated with hazardous work environments created by negligent companies. Certain industries, such as the automotive, railroad, and mining industries frequently exposed workers to dangerous levels of asbestos. As a result, hundreds of thousands of innocent workers experienced asbestos-related health complications. Many of them lost their lives to mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer. Since companies have a duty to provide safe working environments for employees, a large number of mesothelioma lawsuits have ended in large settlements.

A study by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization recently revealed that the average age of people diagnosed with mesothelioma is steadily dropping. A record number of teens and young adults are being diagnosed. As the Pasedena-Star News reports, at just 18 years of age, Austin Lacy lost his live to the incurable cancer. A few weeks before his tragic death, the Mayo Clinic in Arizona discovered that Lacy suffered from mesothelioma. Tumors filled the chest and restricted the blood flow of this standout football star. He complained of feeling fatigued, which is one symptom of mesothelioma cancer. Other symptoms include coughing, fever, and weight loss. Doctors struggled to diagnose Lacy, because mesothelioma symptoms are often mistaken for flu symptoms and can lie dormant in the body for up to 50 years. Even in Lacy's case, where doctors discovered mesothelioma early on, it was still too late to save the young man's life.

Children and young adults throughout the country may already have been exposed to dangerous asbestos levels that threaten their lives. Secondary asbestos exposure can occur when a family member breathes in asbestos from their loved one's clothing. As soon as asbestos particles are inhaled, they can start to infect the cells and turn into cancer. However, since decades usually pass before mesothelioma is diagnosed, many youths may not realize that they are suffering from mesothelioma.

Schools pose a potential asbestos-related health risk to students. An Indiana school building is being demolished this summer because it contained dangerous asbestos fibers. Just like private companies, schools that put students in harm's way by exposing them to asbestos can be liable for their negligence. Proper renovations can help shield students from the threat of an asbestos-related cancer.

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