Caution: Asbestos Hazard

Mesothelioma: What is it, what causes it, why is it advertised on TV?

Consumer protection, Healthcare, Injury

You’ve most likely seen a commercial about filing a mesothelioma lawsuit. This kind of personal injury advertisement becomes white noise. You hear it, but you don’t necessarily absorb the information. The reality is we should be listening to the ads. Anyone is at risk for mesothelioma, but some people are far more likely to develop it than others.


What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. This disease attacks the membrane lining the inside of the body’s cavities (the mesothelium) and usually develops in the chest or abdomen. The location of this cancer poses an immediate threat to nearby tissues. By the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, the disease has spread to surrounding tissues and reached an advanced stage.


The symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, pain or swelling in the abdomen or neck, bowel obstruction, fever, difficulty swallowing, and anemia. They don’t appear until decades after initial asbestos exposure and easily mimic the symptoms of other diseases.


Who is at risk for mesothelioma?

Asbestos is a mineral, not a problem that develops over time like mold. When you hear the word “asbestos,” you may think of old buildings constructed before the 1980s as the only places where asbestos lurks. While that is often true, old buildings are not the only locations that may contain asbestos.


People in manufacturing industries often work with asbestos and have a high likelihood of developing mesothelioma. They may inhale or swallow the small asbestos fibers that are released into the air during the manufacturing process. They may bring home asbestos fibers on their clothing, putting the people they live with at risk for developing second-hand mesothelioma.


Occupations with high rates of exposure to asbestos include construction workers, factory workers, farmers, firefighters, mechanics, machine operators, metal workers, miners, pipefitters, oil rig and shipyard workers, and military personnel.


Isn’t asbestos illegal?

Asbestos may be a carcinogen, but it is not banned in the United States. It is only regulated by the government. While products like spray-on insulation, flooring felt, and commercial paper cannot contain asbestos, many construction materials are still allowed to contain asbestos. The buildings you frequent can contain asbestos: hospitals, churches, theaters, restaurants, grocery stores, airports, shopping malls, and your home.


Because asbestos was (and is) prevalent in schools, a set of regulations was developed in 1986 to protect kids and school employees from the material. Asbestos may be used for fire prevention, insulation, ductwork, ceiling tiles, drywall, and roofing materials. While most buildings constructed before the 1980s are very likely to contain construction materials made with asbestos, some new buildings may also contain asbestos.


Can you sue for mesothelioma?

Asbestos litigation is the longest-running mass tort in the United States. People who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and can trace their asbestos exposure to a workplace or product may be able to file a lawsuit and receive compensation. About 3,000 new mesothelioma cases are diagnosed annually, and over 2,000 claims are filed every year.


Hence, personal injury attorneys promoting their legal services through TV commercials. There is a need. Mesothelioma patients face major financial hurdles. Their medical expenses are costly with cancer treatments, prescriptions, doctor visits, hospitalizations, and long-term home care. Many patients are incapacitated and unable to work, which means reduced or completely lost income.


Who are defendants in asbestos exposure lawsuits?

Asbestos exposure lawsuits are filed against employers or former employers. The plaintiffs claim their employers knew about the dangers of asbestos exposure, did not inform them, nor provide them with proper protective gear or safety measures, or maintain standards required by labor regulations. Recent asbestos cases claim some employers are liable for secondary exposure to asbestos and the development of second-hand mesothelioma among family members.


Manufacturers of products containing asbestos find themselves in cases of gross negligence, where the manufacturer knew about the link between asbestos and mesothelioma but did not warn consumers about the potentially harmful side effects. Many companies have gone bankrupt because of mesothelioma lawsuits. This led the asbestos trust funds to pay compensation to mesothelioma patients or their survivors.


Is it too late to file an asbestos exposure lawsuit?

Mesothelioma typically develops anywhere from 10 to 40 years after asbestos exposure. There is no time to waste once a mesothelioma diagnosis has been made. Most states have a statute of limitations of one to five years from the discovery of their cancer to file a lawsuit. There are also hoops to jump through regarding the confirmation of the diagnosis and whether it fits established diagnostic criteria. If a mesothelioma patient has already died, a spouse or heirs have one to three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death suit.

Additional Resources

Find a lawyer near you

Free legal guides written by experienced attorneys