In October, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a longtime smoker, filed a lawsuit for lung cancer she has medical evidence to show was caused by exposure to asbestos when she was a teen and young adult. She was primarily exposed while doing laundry for her father and brother, both boiler makers, whose clothing came home covered in the deadly fibers. Because of her smoking, however, her lawsuit brought a storm of criticism.
Media Matters for America, a not-for-profit organization created to monitor and correct inaccurate media reports, took major exception to a Dec. 2 column in the New York Times. The column criticized Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York for having recently filed a lawsuit against 70 asbestos companies potentially responsible for the lung cancer she made public in June. Since McCarthy is a longtime smoker, the writer attacked the eight-term House representative’s lawsuit as evidence that “asbestos litigation is a giant scam.”
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.
If your home was built before about 1996, it could very well have components that contain asbestos. Shocked? It’s true. The Environmental Protection Agency started a phased ban of asbestos-containing products used in residential construction in 1989, but the final phase wasn’t even intended to be completed until 1996.
When people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer or another asbestos-related illness, it often comes as a surprise. Cancers caused by the deadly fiber seem like something that only happened in the past, before most asbestos products were banned in the U.S. Surely people aren’t still being diagnosed with these illnesses today.
Gori Julian & Associates recently filed a lawsuit against 65 companies on behalf of an Illinois couple. The husband believes he developed asbestos lung cancer through exposure to the deadly fiber through a number of different products over the course of his 37-year career. The companies responsible for his exposure knew about the risks but failed to take the basic, reasonable steps that would have prevented his illness.
When people develop asbestos-related diseases, they typically endure debilitating symptoms, dreadful physical pain and disability. When their diagnosis is mesothelioma or asbestos-lung cancer, they often suffer from mental anguish, as well, because although their diseases are usually due to the negligence or misconduct of a formerly trusted employer, and their treatment options can be very limited.
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.
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.