As some of you may already know, asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that is not only heat resistant but does not conduct electricity either. It’s because of these properties that it has been used as an insulation material across the nation in homes, schools, and factories for several decades.
When people think of asbestos victims, they often assume they worked for years in industries where asbestos-laden products were commonly used. It is true that certain industries exposed workers to asbestos more than others -- railroad and shipyard workers, welders, plumbers, pipe fitters, boiler mechanics and construction workers, for example. Any occupation where workers would be installing, wearing or working around insulation or insulated products turned out to be high-risk. The reason asbestos was once so popular was its remarkable insulating properties.
The fact that microscopic asbestos fibers caused mesothelioma and asbestos-lung cancer may have come as a shock generations ago, but scientists and safety regulators have known for decades that other airborne particulates carry the same risk. With substantial profits to be gained through the use of these products, however, there continues to be resistance to regulation -- or even to appropriate safety measures being taken.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, just completed a major study on the risk faced by firefighters of contracting mesothelioma and other cancers. Unfortunately, the study found the group suffers from all forms of cancer at a higher rate than the national average. And, for the first time, the study documented the long-suspected increased risk of mesothelioma among firefighters.
Gogebic Taconite, a subsidiary of Cline Resource and Development Group, has made preliminary steps toward the development of a $1.5-billion taconite, or iron ore, mine near Ashland, Wisconsin. The project had already sparked controversy over its possible environmental impact, because the local geology suggests the presence of sulfide rock. If released into local streams and wetlands, opponents say, it could harm waterways and downstream habitats.
A jury just awarded $5.95 million to a Louisiana man who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while working as an electrician at Dow Chemical’s Plaquemine plant, the largest chemical facility in the state. The Dow Chemical Company continues to use asbestos in all of its chemical manufacturing plants in the U.S. and worldwide, despite other companies having abandoned the dangerous practice decades ago.
Asbestos-related diseases are not merely relics from the old days when the fiber was used in everything from coffee makers and hair dryers to pipe gaskets, floor leveling compounds and bonding agents. In many industries asbestos-containing materials are still in active use today.
In 2009, a long-term former employee of GM&O Railroad died of lung cancer. In 1957, he began working at GM&O’s rail yard on the west side of Bloomington. He worked at that location for 15 years, and then he was transferred from Illinois to another GM&O facility, a company shop, in Paducah, Kentucky. During the entire 15-year period he spent at the Bloomington rail yard, he was exposed to asbestos, and that exposure continued after his transfer to Paducah.
With the recent trend in professional sports to discard older facilities in favor of new ones, most professional sports facilities have either been replaced or renovated in the last 25 years. Even venerable institutions such as Yankee Stadium have been torn down and replaced with newer versions. In the National Hockey League, Brooklyn's Barclays Center, a facility that opened last fall, is poised to become the home of the New York Islanders starting in the fall of 2015.
A woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her late husband, whom she said died in 2011 as a result of mesothelioma. The woman is suing the plumbing company that employed her husband for several years. The woman originally filed a suit against dozens of companies a month before her husband died, but that suit has since been disposed of.