Lung cancer mass tort
More and more people are discovering the detrimental health effects of the products and materials they encounter or use every day. Thus, mass tort cases have risen in recent times, with new product safety concerns coming to light every year—such as with cases of asbestos exposure.
The American Bar Association (ABA) reports that more than 25 defendants begin an asbestos-related personal injury case each month. While mesothelioma is the most commonly known of the asbestos-related diseases for which people file lawsuits, lung cancer mass tort cases related to asbestos are among them.
Can asbestos cause lung cancer?
Many people know that asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the tissue lining the outside of the lungs. They might not know that asbestos is also linked to other cancers such as ovarian cancer and lung cancer. In fact, exposure to asbestos causes six times more lung cancer cases than mesothelioma cases, according to Industrial Health.
Lung cancer death from smoking
Still, the actual number of lung cancer cases caused by asbestos is a smaller percentage of the overall number of lung cancer cases in America. Lung cancer is the second leading type of cancer in the United States after breast cancer, but it is the number one cause of cancer death. It is primarily caused by smoking tobacco products like cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking tobacco is responsible for 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths.
Lung cancer death from asbestos
Lung cancer deaths from asbestos are harder to pin down. One analysis from the Environmental Working Group Action Fund (EWG Action Fund) has indicated that over 10,000 people die a year from asbestos-related lung cancer, admitting that this is a conservative estimate. Others estimate the global number of asbestos-related deaths to be around 233,000 deaths per year (per the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health).
As a matter of symptoms, prognosis, or treatment, asbestos-related lung cancer is indistinguishable from other types of lung cancer. This may contribute to why it is hard to gather more concrete numbers on the lung cancer deaths caused by it. However, lung cancer attributed to smoking can be traced more easily to a patient’s smoking habits, known history, and other changes detected in the lungs.
Mesothelioma vs lung cancer
While both diseases are caused by asbestos, they affect different parts of the lungs. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining outside the lungs, in the chest cavity, or abdomen. Lung cancer develops inside the lungs. When the asbestos fibers are inhaled, they become embedded in the lungs, causing scarring and inflammation, which leads to cancer.
Another key difference is that lung cancer will often spread or metastasize to other parts of the body, while mesothelioma remains localized in a particular area of the body or lymph nodes. Both cancers can take years to develop and are highly aggressive with a low survival rate.
Mesothelioma is exclusively caused by asbestos exposure, while lung cancer can have multiple causes. The most common causes of lung cancer include:
- Smoking tobacco
- Radon exposure
- Secondhand smoke inhalation
- Air pollution
How are people exposed to asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. In fact, it’s a blanket term for six different naturally-occurring silicate minerals. Asbestos exposure occurs when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, releasing fibers into the air. When those particles are inhaled continuously over time, they can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases.
Occupational exposure to asbestos
Historically, asbestos exposure happens primarily through the workplace. People who work directly with the mineral are the most at risk. This is known as occupational exposure. In the past, mining and milling asbestos or materials located in close proximity to the mineral led to it being released into the air.
Outside of mining and milling, asbestos was once extremely popular in construction and infrastructure. Asbestos fibers are known to be strong, so the mineral was used in flooring, roofing, and insulation products. It was used to create fireproof drywall, insulate pipes, and strengthen cement. Additionally, shipbuilding and the automotive industry were industries that also widely used asbestos.
Laborers who worked directly with asbestos in construction jobs, mining jobs, or product manufacturing might have been exposed to it for years or decades.
Secondary occupational exposure
Manipulation of asbestos leads to particles entering the air, exposing those who worked with it directly and those who worked in the vicinity. This is known as secondary occupational exposure. For example, a painter who worked in the same building as the construction workers who were making or placing asbestos-containing drywall was also exposed to the cancer-causing material.
Take-home exposure to asbestos
Another exposure scenario is called para-occupational exposure or take-home exposure. When workers who were directly or secondarily exposed to asbestos traveled home, they carried the fibers with them on their clothes, skin, hair, and equipment. Family members and others they regularly come in contact with would also be exposed, inhaling the fibers.
As asbestos was a commonly used material before the 1970s, many buildings and homes were constructed with materials that contained it. Today, those structures pose a risk to those who live or work within them if they are loose, crumbling, or disturbed by normal activity or renovations. Structures and materials within the home that may contain asbestos are:
- Steam pipes
- Furnace ducts
- Resilient floor tiles and ceiling tiles
- Cement sheet, millboard, or paper used for insulation around stoves
- Door gaskets in furnaces and stoves
- Roofing shingles and side shingles
- Heat resistant fabrics
- Textured paint
- Patching compounds used for walls and ceilings
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides an extensive list of products found in older homes that may have asbestos. It also details the ways asbestos may be released from them and offers safety guidelines for those who have asbestos in their homes. Knowing where and how you may have been exposed to asbestos can help you if you choose to bring a lawsuit for an asbestos-related health condition.
Consumers buying products containing asbestos
Consumers who used products created or contaminated with asbestos, like Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder, could also be exposed.
Those involved in the United States military were often exposed to asbestos. Ships were built using the cancer-causing mineral, and many other products the military relied on were manufactured with it.
As a result of human use, asbestos can be found dispersed throughout the environment. It has been released into the air, soil, and water, particularly around facilitates such as:
- Building demolitions
- Power plants
- Factories handling asbestos
- Steel mills
A natural asbestos-bearing rock can also cause asbestos exposure in the environment. Though most of this rock is underground and doesn’t pose a threat undisturbed, there are places where this rock is located close to the surface, such as California. Natural weathering and erosion, along with unintentional human disturbance, may cause it to be released in areas such as this.
State of asbestos exposure today
While occupational exposure is still the leading type of exposure to asbestos, the number of people exposed through the job has declined due to government regulation and widespread knowledge of its tragic health effects.
Government regulation of asbestos
At the height of asbestos consumption in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s, scientists and medical practitioners began to look into the correlation between asbestos and illnesses such as cancer, particularly mesothelioma.
In 1971, the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) set up limits for asbestos exposure in the workplace. President Richard Nixon had just created the organization the year prior. The asbestos regulation was one of its first official acts. Soon after, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was established by Congress. It would begin regulating asbestos in consumer products, issuing its first asbestos product ban in 1977.
Around the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by Nixon in 1970, began regulating industrial use of asbestos. Additionally, industrial use of asbestos declined sharply since the 1970s. Many industries gave it up voluntarily. Mining of asbestos in the U.S. was banned in 2002.
Workplace exposure today
Today, 1.3 million workers in the construction industry are exposed to asbestos in the U.S., as opposed to an estimated 27 million workers exposed between 1940 and 1979.
Most occupational exposures that occur today are the result of repair, renovation,
removal, or maintenance of products containing asbestos that were installed decades ago.
Asbestos still found in certain industrial products
Asbestos used in the United States today is imported. Some products still manufactured with the carcinogenic material include:
- Vehicle brake pads
- Automobile clutches
- Materials for roofing
- Corrugated sheeting
- Imported cement pipe
- Vinyl tile
What are the first signs of asbestos poisoning?
Though the symptoms of asbestos exposure will differ depending on the asbestos-related disease, many of them do overlap. If you have asbestos lung cancer or another asbestos-related disease, it will primarily affect your lungs. Some of the common signs of asbestos poisoning include:
- Persistent dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal swelling
- Swollen fingers
It is important to remember that asbestos-related diseases can take decades to develop. For that reason, many of the signs and symptoms may not present themselves typically until the late stages of the illness. A regular screening at the doctor is encouraged for those with known or suspected asbestos exposure.
When to see a doctor?
If you have had significant or continuous exposure to asbestos or suspect that you have, you should see a doctor right away, even if you don’t have any symptoms. If you notice any symptoms of asbestos poisoning, you should seek medical attention. Early and accurate diagnosis is essential to receiving the most appropriate medical treatment.
The chances of survival are increased in early-stage detection, though early detection can be rare.
A doctor will perform a thorough medical evaluation including:
- Taking your exposure history
- Examining your medical history
- Routine physical exams
- Chest radiographs
- Pulmonary function tests
Treating asbestos-related lung cancer
The treatment for asbestos-related lung cancer is the same for other types of lung cancer. Treatment depends on the type of cancer and the stage you are in. Conventional medical treatment options are listed below:
Surgery may be an option to remove the cancerous tissue if it has not metastasized extensively.
Chemotherapy medicine is given to kill cancer in the body. It may be administered through IV or prescription medication.
Radiation treatment involves the use of high-energy rays to kill the cancer.
Certain drugs are designed to block the growth and spread of the cancer cells.
Clinical trials may also be an option for lung cancer, if there are any available for your particular illness. Clinical trials test out new treatments on cancer patients to determine if they are safe and effective.
Complementary and alternative medicine
Complementary and alternative medicine are more natural medicine options. They do not involve chemicals or synthesized drugs. Complementary medicine is used to supplement the standard treatment options. Some examples include:
- Dietary supplements
- Intravenous vitamin C injections
Alternative medicine is used to replace conventional treatments. These include:
- Herbal remedies and preparations
- Special teas
- Alkaline or other special diets
- Intravenous vitamin C or other megadose vitamins
- Magnet therapy
Many complementary and alternative medicines are not scientifically tested and may not be safe to use. It is important to speak with your doctor before beginning any of these treatments.
We can help lung cancer patients who were exposed to asbestos
If you have lung cancer due to asbestos exposure, The Sentinel Group can help. We can assist you in finding a highly qualified mass torts lawyer who will hold the at-fault party accountable for your asbestos-related lung cancer. You may be able to join thousands of others bringing cases for justice and compensation against major companies.
Fill out our contact form today to get help with your case or to learn how you can hold the liable party responsible.