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Do-it-yourselfers may be at risk for asbestos-related illness

Even though U.S. environmental regulations prohibited the use of asbestos in many areas in the 1970s, the toxic material is still present in older buildings and products. Those environmental regulations may have limited new exposure, but they by no means put an end to asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Unfortunately, people who were exposed to asbestos fibers before the material was banned are still at risk for developing these diseases, and symptoms can take decades to appear.

Most victims of asbestos-related illness worked in industries where the material was commonly used, such as construction, roofing, insulation, motor vehicle maintenance, shipping and railway transportation, and factories. Asbestos was commonly used as insulation, so anyone working around that insulation was put at risk. People exposed to asbestos also carried the deadly fibers on their clothing, exposing others in their families.

A recent case in New York, however, involved a victim who had no history of working in a high-risk occupation. Moreover, a review of asbestos claims by a Pennsylvania court revealed that industrial exposure only accounted for about 49 percent of mesothelioma claims filed between 2006 and 2010. Increasingly, the source of asbestos exposure has been shown to be do-it-yourself home improvement projects and car maintenance.

The New York man, now deceased, believed that his exposure occurred some decades ago during do-it-yourself home improvement projects, or during a short stint as a greenhouse worker. He suffered from chest pain so unbearable that he traveled nationwide for various surgeries and chemotherapy. Before he died of an apparent asbestos-related illnesses, he filed suit against 29 companies (or their bankruptcy trusts) whose products he likely used.

Despite the man’s death, the lawsuits continue and settlement offers are still being made. One of several trials in which his estate will attempt to obtain compensation from the companies whose products harmed him is scheduled to begin in November.

Source: News Inferno, "Asbestos Continues to Cause Significant Mesothelioma Risks," Cynthia A. Diaz-Shephard, June 17, 2013

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