This last weekend, we celebrated the service and sacrifice of our military members. For some the sacrifice continues years later. We want to draw attention to lingering health effects caused by asbestos exposure.
For most of the 20th century, asbestos was widely used in the U.S. Navy, both in the shipyards were the vessels were built and onboard in a wide array of applications. This resulted in widespread asbestos exposure among Navy veterans, in many cases leading to disastrous health consequences in the decades that followed. Often, the disease remains undetected for a period of 20 to 50 years before resulting in a terminal diagnosis.
Five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a New York City police detective died of respiratory failure caused by exposure to toxic chemical fumes at Ground Zero. Tragically, an unknown number of others who lived near or responded to the emergencies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, have also died from toxic exposure.
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.
The logic seems fairly straightforward: If a substance is known to cause cancer, society should avoid that substance and people will stop developing the kind of cancer inspired by exposure to the substance. The logic is fairly straightforward in theory, yet not always in practice. For example, society has long understood that smoking causes a variety of preventable cancers. Yet, cigarettes are still sold in millions of establishments and millions of people begin smoking each year.
No individual should have to face asbestos exposure because a company acted negligently. Asbestos exposure can be very harmful to an individual. Such exposure can result in individuals developing mesothelioma or other serious medical conditions. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related medical conditions can be very impactful on their victims.
Four men, each of which worked for BNSF Railway Co. for more than three decades, have filed a joint federal lawsuit against their former employer in Madison County. Each plaintiff is seeking $2.5 million in damages in the lawsuit, for a total amount of $10 million.
Last week, we began a discussion of the Environmental Protection Agency's recent proposal for the cleanup of asbestos in Libby, Montana, a former mining town in which at least half of the population - and most likely more - has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and related diseases. The cause of those ailments is the town's proximity to the W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine, which spread asbestos throughout the town for many of the 30 years it was in operation.
Five long-time employees of BNSF Railway have sued their former employer, accusing the company of failing to warn its workers of the potential harm of prolonged asbestos exposure, despite their awareness of its many dangers.
A widow has filed a personal injury lawsuit against BNSF Railway Company on behalf of her deceased husband. In the suit, the widow alleges that the company negligently contributed to the death of her husband by continually exposing him to asbestos fibers and other harmful substances during his three-decade employment. The company has not yet responded to the lawsuit, which was filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court, but it is likely that it will attempt to reach a settlement with the widow.