Friday, April 20, 2012

*Some Information on Mesothelioma

Living in southern Appalachia, it seems like almost everybody has either worked in a local manufacturing plant or "mill" or has family who had. Sadly, many of these people and their family members were later diagnosed with lung diseases that were likely related to their jobs, and many died from them. In most cases, it was only a few years between diagnosis and death and the majority never received any compensation from their employers.

One of my husband's cousins, who died from mesothelioma after working in a textile plant which manufactured asbestos fabrics, was even told he had no claim because he'd been a smoker and that was obviously the cause of his lung cancer. Some manufacturing plants in the area today make applicants sign a form that says they cannot sue the company for any health problems that are related to their employment - I'm not sure if this is even legal, but it was enough to keep my husband from taking a fairly high-paying job with a company that manufactures wallboard.

I vaugely remember seeing signs about asbestos when I was a child in the early 90s and being told it was something bad and they were getting rid of it in our school building, and I've seen the ads for mesothelioma lawyers on television, so I thought that it was a fading problem. Instead, I've learned that mesothelioma rates have not really gone down since 1989, when the asbestos ban was passed (the increased for several years afterward), and the survival rate has only barely improved. Because it was expensive to remove asbestos from many products, and some manufacturers claimed it was impossible or that the replacement materials were inferior, many manufacturers using asbestos were opposed to the ban and the the EPA was sued and lost in 1991, overturning much of the asbestos ban and ensuring that asbestos is still used in many products today.

Another surprise was finding that about 30% of mesothelioma patients are veterans, usually those who served onboard US Navy ships or in naval shipyards from the 1930s through the 1970s. During those years, asbestos was used extensively for fireproofing and insulation and the close quarters of the ship made it virtually impossible to avoid exposure. The VA does recognize mesothelioma as a service-related disease, but many people have trouble getting VA claims approved and it becomes an even harder problem while battling a deadly disease at the same time. Veterans, like many other mesothelioma patients, would be best served by getting a lawyer to represent them during this process.
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