Asbestos is a mineral which occurs naturally in the earth throughout the world, significant deposits being found in China, India, Russia, Brazil, and Canada. It is very durable, a remarkable insulator, non-flammable, as well as relatively cheap, which is why, shortly after the Industrial Revolution, numerous industries chose to employ it for various applications. From the manufacturing of automobile components and construction materials to fireproofing equipment prone to overheating on navy ships, asbestos has been present in over 5,000 products for the better part of the last century. However, while at first glance asbestos may seem the perfect raw material, it has a downside which undoubtedly outweighs all the advantages this fibrous mineral entails – it is a known human carcinogen.
Exposure to asbestos can take place via two routes: inhalation and ingestion of airborne fibers. Despite the early availability of reputable medical studies supporting the harmful effects of exposure, which include pulmonary disease, among many other life-threatening health consequences, company executives had been refusing to cease asbestos use until they no longer had a choice. This resulted in more than 11 million workers being subjected to toxic exposure on the job between 1948 and 1970, approximately 20% of whom have subsequently fallen ill to a serious disease. In 1971, asbestos was officially recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a carcinogenic agent, which led to the enforcement of stricter regulation across the country. Thus, new uses of asbestos became forbidden, but companies are still allowed to include it in products which have contained it in the past, such as roofing materials.
While people who encounter asbestos in the workplace nowadays are at very low risk when it comes to toxic exposure, as industrial hygiene is highly prioritized today, those who came in contact with this harmful mineral before 1980 remain susceptible to developing lung disease. Since asbestos workers were rarely given appropriate protective equipment to wear on the job, they would often breathe in and swallow large amounts of carcinogenic fibers, which – once inside the body – would attach themselves to the tissue of various organs, mostly the lungs. There, they would gradually produce inflammation and scarring, which could later give way to a more serious disease. As pulmonary disease caused by asbestos exposure has a latency period of 10 to 50 years, roughly 8,000 new cases are still emerging in the U.S. every year, whereas between 12,000 and 15,000 individuals lose their lives to it annually.
Furthermore, because they were not required to change their clothes before leaving the facility, asbestos workers would often carry home potentially deadly fibers, inadvertently exposing their family members. This is known as secondary asbestos exposure. Although the chances of developing lung disease following secondary exposure are considerably lower in comparison to the risk implied by occupational exposure, people who inhabited the same dwelling as someone who was handling asbestos on the job at the time should still keep a close eye on their health, as secondary exposure is responsible for up to 10% of asbestos victims.
Due to the long latency period asbestos-related diseases entail, the number of victims is expected to reach a peak in 2022 and gradually decrease afterwards. In the following, we are going to take a look at the case of a U.S. family whose members were affected by both occupational and secondary asbestos exposure, as well as at the financial compensation each was able to recover after filing a claim with the trust fund of the company at fault for their injury. Asbestos trust funds, which have rapidly become the primary source of compensation to victims of exposure after 1988, provide individuals with money depending mainly on the severity of their diagnosis. Nonetheless, the percentage of compensation the trust fund can afford to pay out and other factors also come into play when deciding the sum of money one is going to receive.
Thomas Gray, who is currently 82, held down three different jobs which involved handling asbestos, which led to the lung cancer diagnosis he received in 1996. He had first worked as a pipefitter for J. T. Thorpe Inc. – a company which made use of asbestos-containing refractory materials – between 1954 and 1957. As it can be gathered, it took 42 years for him to develop the disease. The legal action he chose to take with the aid of a specialized attorney has granted Thomas $45,000, which he is to receive in monthly installments of $750 for the next 5 years.
As a boiler mechanic for the infamous asbestos manufacturer Johns Manville between 1958 and 1964, Thomas was also heavily exposed to the mineral on the job, as the maintenance and repair of these devices would inevitably release carcinogenic fibers in the air. Johns Manville was the first asbestos company to establish a trust fund in 1998 and the same trust fund has recently paid out $300,000 to Thomas for the physical and emotional distress his illness is causing him. He is going to receive $2,500 every month from the Manville Settlement Trust for the following 10 years. In the regrettable event of his demise, his family will continue to claim the money he was entitled to.
Finally, the man underwent occupational asbestos exposure while employed at A. P. Green Industries as a plant worker between 1968 and 1973. After filing a claim with DLL Industries, LLC Asbestos PI Trust, Thomas received $190,000 in compensation for his lung cancer. The sum of money will be paid out to him in monthly installments of $1,583.
Unfortunately, as a consequence of asbestos companies keeping both employees and consumers in the dark with regard to the dangers of exposure, the man would unavoidably bring toxic fibers home at the end of the day while he was holding down these jobs. For this reason, his wife and son also developed asbestos-related pulmonary disease later in life.
74-year-old Deborah Gray had been regularly inhaling asbestos fibers while doing the laundry, as she would carelessly shake out her husband’s work clothes before washing them, which would create harmful dust every time. Accordingly, she came to suffer from pleural mesothelioma, the most aggressive form of cancer asbestos exposure can cause, in 2001. Only 2,500 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed every year in the U.S. and the disease, which develops preponderantly on the outer lining of the lungs, has a very unfavorable prognosis, with most patients passing away within one year. The three asbestos trust funds which approved Thomas’s claim have also provided Deborah with financial compensation, as the companies each represents were responsible for her illness per se. Therefore, the woman received a total of $910,000 in compensation for her terrible diagnosis.
At 55 years old, Jonathan Gray, the son of Thomas and Deborah, discovered he had a type of lung disease, too, namely bilateral pleural thickening, as a result of secondary asbestos exposure. He was diagnosed in 2005. His asbestos exposure occurred when he would greet Thomas upon returning home from work with his clothes laden with toxic dust. Because Jonathan’s illness is not as severe as that of his mother or father, he was eligible for a smaller amount of money and was thereby paid $41,500 by the three asbestos trust funds his lawyer had filed his claim with.
Anyone injured by asbestos exposure, be it occupational or secondary, can file a claim to receive the compensation they are entitled to, regardless of the severity of their diagnosis. There are currently 60 active asbestos trust funds in the U.S. and if you are also a victim of exposure, a lawyer whose primary area of practice is asbestos litigation can help you benefit from the money you deserve. Because it does not involve litigation and is significantly faster than recovering compensation via a standard lawsuit, the legal process requires minimal involvement on the part of asbestos victims.