COVID-19 Updates: We are keeping our staff, clients and their family members safe and healthy. Our law firm is 100% operational, available in-person and 24/7 assistance by email and phone. Read More

Precautions for asbestos exposure victims with various lung diseases during the coronavirus pandemic

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on September 05th, 2020

People who struggle with lung disease as a result of occupational or military asbestos exposure are at high risk of contracting the new virus. For this reason, they must follow a series of protective measures to avoid contracting it, such as wearing a face mask every time they are in public.

Diseases that affect the lungs are the most common among the victims of asbestos exposure, as inhalation is the primary way the dangerous mineral fibers reach the inside of their bodies. However, struggling with a lung disease places you at high risk of contracting the new virus, as your lungs are already damaged by your disease and your immune system is very weak. Since the coronavirus targets mainly the respiratory system, it is crucial to follow a series of precautions against contracting it, as infection with the novel virus can be fatal to asbestos exposure victims who struggle with lung disease. The following are some of the most common diagnoses people with a history of asbestos exposure receive and the most important protective measures they should take against contracting it.

As one of the most common forms of lung cancer, adenocarcinoma develops in the glands which line the lungs, but it can also occur in the colon, breasts, prostate, esophagus, and pancreas. Nonetheless, it most often takes place in the lungs, namely on the outside of the organs, where the glands which secret mucus exist. Occurring mostly along the outer edges of the lungs, adenocarcinoma is a form of lung cancer that develops slowly and thereby has a more favorable prognosis than other types of lung cancer.

The causal relation between asbestos exposure and lung adenocarcinoma is confirmed by numerous medical studies, as asbestos is a human carcinogen that may lead to numerous terrible diseases 20 to 50 years after the person first inhales or ingests it. A study conducted on 146 Norwegian men who were smokers and had a history of asbestos exposure, which was published in the journal Molecular and Clinical Oncology in 2017, reveals that nearly 46% of the people who participated in the research developed lung adenocarcinoma. The individuals who took part in the study came from two occupational groups in which asbestos exposure occurs to a great extent:

Among the demographics at high risk of contracting the new virus are people who struggle with lung adenocarcinoma, since their respiratory system is damaged and the cancer treatment they undergo, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, weaken their immune system tremendously. Therefore, not only is infection with coronavirus more likely to occur, but they are also at higher risk of developing serious health complications if they contract it. If you experience a new onset of symptoms, we strongly advise you to go to the emergency room immediately.

As the second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma occurs in over 1 million people in the United States every year. While not as aggressive as melanoma, it is still a very serious disease, which annually claims the lives of 15,000 individuals throughout the country. Because of cancer itself, which weakens the immune system, as well as because of the following treatments people who suffer from squamous cell carcinoma undergo, people who suffer from it are significantly more prone to developing complications due to infection with coronavirus than the demographics that do not have such a diagnosis:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy
  • immunotherapy

Although exposure to asbestos has not yet been proven to lead to squamous cell carcinoma, there are several medical studies that suggest a connection between the two. For instance, a research published in the journal Molecular and Clinical Oncology in 2017 reveals that this type of cancer was present in 38.4% of the people who took part in the study, namely 146 men who were working in industries with heavy asbestos exposure, shipbuilding, and constructions, and who were also smokers. Thereby, a link between asbestos exposure and squamous cell carcinoma may exist, since asbestos fibers are microscopic and can easily attach to the skin, subsequently causing a form of skin cancer.

Small cell carcinoma is a highly aggressive type of cancer that most commonly develops in the lungs. It usually starts in the bronchi and although the cells are initially small, they grow quickly and create large tumors. In the majority of cases, the tumors spread very fast to other parts of the body such as the brain, liver, and bones. Small cell lung cancer represents about 10% to 15% of all lung cancers, but it is considered the most aggressive form of lung cancer, with a very low life expectancy, While the exact cause of small cell lung carcinoma is hard to determine, studies have shown that there are certain risk factors that can lead to it, such as:

  • tobacco smoking
  • exposure to diesel exhaust
  • asbestos exposure
  • exposure to secondhand smoke
  • a family history of lung cancer
  • exposure to radon gas

Studies conducted in China have discovered that the risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus appears to be twice as high for cancer patients than the general population, including people who struggle with small cell carcinoma. From what we have learned until now, coronavirus infection seems to be more aggressive than the common flu, attacking the respiratory system, especially the lungs. People who are already suffering from small cell carcinoma not only have low immunity which puts the body in the impossibility to fight off the infection, but it also facilitates the possibility of developing pneumonia and possible organ failure. The risks seem to be especially high for patients currently undergoing chemotherapy or other forms of cancer treatment which can damage the immune system even more and getting treatment in the hospital can increase the risk tremendously.

It is estimated that in 2020, over 228,000 people will get diagnosed with lung and throat cancer, including laryngeal cancer. While there is no scientific evidence suggesting that these types of cancers that affect the throat and respiratory tract raise the risk of severe complications after infection with coronavirus, the reality is that any type of virus can prove fatal to cancer patients. Numerous studies have linked laryngeal cancer to asbestos exposure, including one from the Institute of Medicine that concluded there is a 40% higher risk of developing it for people with a history of asbestos exposure. Working in a facility that uses asbestos without adequate protection could lead to workers inhaling asbestos fibers. In the process of passing through the larynx, these fibers could penetrate the laryngeal tissue, leading to severe inflammation and eventually to cancer. The following are some facts about laryngeal cancer and asbestos exposure:

  • nearly 6,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer that occur as a result of asbestos exposure are diagnosed throughout te country annually
  • the risk of developing laryngeal cancer due to asbestos exposure highly depends on the amount of asbestos the person inhales and ingests
  • the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary formed the Committee on Asbestos, which included laryngeal cancer as a potential health effect of asbestos exposure

Those who have recently had surgery for laryngeal cancer and those who are currently in treatment with chemotherapy or radiation are at the highest risk of contracting the new virus, as their white blood cell count is extremely low, making them very vulnerable to infection and in the impossibility of fighting it off. This is why it is extremely important for cancer patients to protect themselves as much as possible.

Coronavirus has been defined as a respiratory virus that can enter the body through the respiratory tract and settle on the lungs, where it seems to have the most dramatic effect. The lungs are lined with billions of epithelial cells which are considered the border cells of the body, preventing bacteria to enter. There, the virus multiplies, infecting billions of healthy cells that cover the lungs. This is when the immune system comes in to fight off the infection and kill the infected cells, but considering that this is a completely new virus, the immune system can get into a fighting frenzy and attack even healthy tissue which can cause even further damage, such as:

  • pulmonary fibrosis
  • lung scarring
  • superinfection
  • pneumonia
  • sepsis
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome

This is not the same in the case of cancer patients with already low immunity. The epithelial cells protecting the lungs die, leaving the alveoli, the tiny air sacs through which breathing occurs, more vulnerable to getting infected. Patients get pneumonia, respiration becomes hard or even fails and there is a need for artificial ventilation. The risks are even higher in the case of patients undergoing chemotherapy, as the ability of the body to produce white blood cells is compromised and this makes the body pretty much unable to fight. It is especially risky in the period right after a chemotherapy session, as the body is extremely weakened.

Despite the fact that the main risk factors for esophageal cancer include excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, numerous studies have also linked it to occupational asbestos exposure. Over 16.000 cases of esophageal cancer are reported throughout the county every year and it seems to be the seventh most common cause of cancer death among men. A study published by The American Journal of Industrial Medicine observed 14,515 male subjects concluded that there is a connection between asbestos exposure and esophageal cancer.

Throat cancer refers to malignant tumors that can develop in the pharynx, larynx, and tonsils. Among other factors, this type of cancer has been linked to occupational asbestos exposure, as it is known that inhaling asbestos fibers can lead to numerous health issues. Here is how asbestos exposure can lead to throat cancer over the years:

  • asbestos fibers pass through the larynx before reaching the lungs
  • they penetrate the laryngeal tissues and get embedded in the lining of the organ
  • asbestos fibers gradually create severe inflammation and tissue scarring
  • within 20 to 50 years, these symptoms can lead to the development of throat cancer

Patients with a weakened immune system are at a high risk of contracting the new virus because their bodies are unable to fight it off and they might even activate the excessive immune response called a cytokine storm. This is defined by the overproduction of immune cells which, in cases of infection with coronavirus, activates into the lungs, resulting in inflammation and fluid buildup that can lead to pneumonia or respiratory distress.

Cancer therapies such as chemotherapy are necessary for the process of reducing the spread of cancer, but they can also affect other organs such as the kidneys, weaken the heart muscles and drastically reduce the ability of the body to produce white blood cells. This can put the body at high risk of contracting any viral infection, not just the coronavirus, as it makes it practically impossible to fight off and it can lead to organ failure and death.

The first study that found a connection between throat cancer and asbestos exposure was conducted in 1960 and it reviewed around 1,500 workers with high asbestos exposure. The conclusion was that the number of deaths of throat cancer was 28% higher than expected. The Institute of Medicine concluded based on the result from 34 studies that people with moderate exposure to asbestos in the workplace have a 40% higher chance of developing throat cancer than those with no exposure, while people with a high exposure like asbestos miners or construction workers had up to triple the risk.

In the United States, bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in men and the ninth in women, with an estimated 70.980 new cases annually. Various studies have concluded that men seem to be more affected by it than women, with the incidence increasing with age:

  • the average age of diagnosis for men is 69 years
  • the average age of dignosis for women is 71 for women

This puts patients in the most vulnerable category for infection with coronavirus, possibly leading to the development of severe complications. This is why it is extremely important that bladder cancer patients protect themselves during this pandemic and stay informed.

The link between occupational asbestos exposure and bladder cancer has been confirmed by numerous studies and medical research. This happens because the body flushes out asbestos fibers and other toxic agents through the urinary system, which facilitates the development of malignant tumors inside the bladder, eventually resulting in cancer. In the case of asbestos exposure, there is also the possibility that some ingested fibers remain inside after urine expulsion or enter the bladder by traveling through the circulatory system.

While a diagnosis of bladder cancer does not actively increase the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, there are still several concerns that need to be addressed. This type of cancer by itself, being a solid tumor, does not directly affect the immune system, but undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy can severely affect your white blood cell count, which puts the body in a very vulnerable position, susceptible to contracting viral infections. There is also a high risk for patients undergoing immunotherapy, as this treatment might lead to autoimmune diseases as a side-effect.

As a chronic respiratory disease, asthma places individuals who suffer from it at a higher risk of developing complications if infection with coronavirus occurs, since:

  • their respiratory system is weak and functions improperly
  • people who suffer from asthma have a poor immune system
  • the lung capacity of the patients is also low

If you struggle with this disease and experience a worsening of your symptoms or a new onset of symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately, as you may have contracted the novel virus, which can be fatal to you if you struggle with asthma.

Exposure to asbestos occurs when one inhales or ingests toxic fibers from the air. While a definitive correlation between asbestos exposure and asthma has not yet been discovered, medical studies suggest that the former can trigger the latter by causing airway obstruction. As a consequence, bronchial asthma will develop. According to a study conducted on the Norwegian population, nearly 15% of the people exposed to hazardous occupational agents, including asbestos, developed this disease within a few years.

While the majority are benign, 40% to 50% are cancerous. Only a biopsy can reveal whether a lung nodule is malignant. However, regardless of the nature of the lung nodules someone has, they are at increased risk of infection with coronavirus, since their respiratory and immune systems are highly damaged by these abnormal growths. Every year, lung nodules are discovered incidentally in 1 million people throughout the United States. The detection usually occurs when the person:

  • is having a chest X-ray
  • undergoes a CT scan in the chest area

Lung nodules can also be the result of exposure to dangerous occupational agents, such as asbestos. When products that contain asbestos are disturbed or when a person handles raw asbestos for the manufacturing of various materials, their activity will release tiny fibers in the air. Subsequently, asbestos, which is classified as a known carcinogen by numerous health organizations around the world, will reach the lungs of the people who perform such tasks by inhalation. Once inside the lungs, asbestos will gradually cause inflammation and tissue scarring which, in turn, may lead to the development of lung nodules. It is important to keep in mind that 20 to 50 years may pass from the first contact with the mineral to the development of this condition.

Pleural plaques are areas of benign thickening forming in the lining of the lungs. These are primarily linked to long term asbestos exposure and could lead to the development of mesothelioma. It is estimated that nearly 50% of the people who have been exposed to asbestos will develop pleural plaques. The following are some important facts about pleural plaques:

    • they form through the accumulation of asbestos fibers in the lungs
    • asbestos fibers lead to severe irritation and tissue scarring
    • the average period in which these develop is around 40 years
    • they are usually asymptomatic, buy can turn into lung cancer or mesothelioma

    Because we are dealing with a new virus, the studies surrounding it are still ongoing and the risks concerning patients with pleural plaques are not fully known. It is clear though that having a chronic underlying disease can exponentially grow the possible development of severe complications of coronavirus infection such as pneumonia. Even if having pleural plaques is not deemed potentially life-threatening, considering the fact that the virus attacks the lungs, the combination of the two could lead to serious complications, since the lungs are not healthy enough to heal and fight off a respiratory infection.

    What health complications can asbestos exposure victims experience after infection with coronavirus?

    If you are a victim of asbestos exposure who struggles with lung disease, you are very susceptible to contracting the new virus, as well as to experience serious health complications as a result of infection, whether you receive medical attention or not. At the moment, the United States is the country with the largest number of coronavirus infection cases and also with the highest death rate. The following health complications may arise following infection with the new virus in people with a history of asbestos exposure who have a lung disease:

    • severe muscle pain
    • heart attack
    • irregular heart rate
    • cardiovascular shock
    • fatigue
    • acute respiratory distress syndrome

    It is crucial to seek medical attention immediately if you notice a new onset of symptoms, such as a persisting cough, runny nose, sore throat, difficulty breathing, fever, chest pain, or fatigue, as you may have contracted the new virus. If you receive medical attention in a timely manner, your chances of developing serious health complications as a result of coronavirus infection decrease considerably.

    We provide cancer patients and their family members with face masks during the coronavirus pandemic

    By virtue of our mask matching program, we offer face masks to cancer patients, whether they are our clients or not, in exchange for $10 each, money that will go to local hospitals in the hope of helping medical staff navigate the coronavirus more smoothly. Thereby, if you are a cancer patient, please contact our law firm and we will offer you face masks for you and your family members, as wearing a face mask every time you are outside is one of the most essential protective measures you can take during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Protective measures for asbestos exposure victims who struggle with a lung disease

    While the coronavirus pandemic is spreading at a fast pace throughout the country, following a series of protective measures to avoid infection is crucial, particularly if your lungs are already damaged by disease. People who struggle with lung disease have a high risk of developing serious complications as a consequence of infection with the novel virus, so they need to take extra precautions. The following are the basic protective measures against infection with coronavirus for the victims of asbestos exposure with lung diseases:

    • keep a distance of at least 3 feet from the people around you when you go outside
    • avoid leaving your house except for emergencies, such as purchasing groceries or visiting your physician
    • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • disinfect the objects and surfaces you frequently use on a regular basis
    • refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth if you have not previously washed your hands
    • watch or read the news concerning the coronavirus to stay up to date with the precautions you need to take to avoid contracting it

    Quality legal assistance for asbestos exposure victims with lung diseases

    With over 25 years of experience, our attorneys will help you recover the financial compensation you deserve if you have a history of asbestos exposure and struggle with lung disease. After a thorough case review, during which you will have to describe the circumstances of your occupational or military asbestos exposure, our skillful attorneys will promptly begin preparing your claim for submission. The only documents we will need from you are your employment or military records and your medical records, which will stand as evidence to support your claim. While complex and tedious, the legal process will require minimal involvement on your part and will take about one hour to complete, as the rest of the necessary paperwork will be efficiently taken care of by our resourceful legal team. Eventually, you will receive the maximum compensation you deserve for your physical and emotional distress.

    If you are a veteran, we will also file your claim with the VA, as they offer disability compensation to veterans injured by military asbestos exposure, as well as other benefits you may qualify for. As for the surviving family members of a victim of workplace asbestos exposure, we will also help them file a wrongful death claim with the responsible company, which will result in fair compensation. However, it is important to know that, if you contracted the new virus, we cannot help you in this respect, as this is not our area of practice. Therefore, if you are a victim of asbestos exposure with lung disease or a surviving family member of one, please contact our law firm at your earliest convenience for a free of charge case review.