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Industries That Deliberately Placed Workers at Risk for Lung Cancer

By Treven Pyles

Posted on October 07th, 2019

Although asbestos use has registered a dramatic decrease within the past years, the mineral is still the principal toxic danger to workers, causing the majority of occupational cancer worldwide. An estimated 1.3 million people in the U.S. go to a workplace where they are exposed to considerable amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos' thermal stability and indestructible nature enable it to withstand degradation for decades, under almost any conditions. Because of these desirable properties, manufacturers and industrialists found asbestos almost supernatural and started using it in thousands of commercial applications, products, equipment, and industrial materials. For example, asbestos was highly used in the construction of power plants as an insulator to aid in reaching the high temperatures that were required to run the boilers and generate electricity.

The continuous exposure to the toxic mineral for industrial workers increases the risk of developing certain diseases. The pathogenic risk of asbestos remaining for a long time in the pulmonary tissue has been very well documented, which is why the toxic mineral is banned in more than 60 countries. Direct or indirect exposure to asbestos can cause diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, plaques, thickening and effusion in the pleura and it has been found to kill 40,000 Americans annually.

Asbestos Industry Cover-Ups

For decades, the asbestos companies were fully aware of the potentially fatal consequences that asbestos exposure can have on their workers, yet they deliberately avoided using words such as "carcinogen" or "cancerous" on the warning labels. Many companies conducted internal health studies where the deadly effects of their products were proven, but chose to hide the results from the public and continued favoring profits over the health of their workers. For instance, in a 1964 report commissioned by Philip Carey Manufacturing Corporation - a manufacturer of insulation products for industrial equipment including boilers, pipes, generators and more - a doctor described the relationship between asbestos and disease: "there is an irrefutable association between asbestos and cancer. Substantial evidence has been presented that slight and intermittent exposures may be sufficient to produce lung cancer and mesothelioma."

An internal memo from a trustee of the Manville Trust in 1988 proves early knowledge that asbestos was deadly: "the documents noted above, however, show corporate knowledge of the dangers associated with exposure to asbestos dating back to 1934. In addition, the plaintiffs' bar will probably take the position - not unreasonably - that the documents are evidence of a corporate conspiracy to prevent asbestos workers from learning that their exposure to asbestos could kill them."

A cold-hearted line sums up the callous thinking of the Director of Purchasing for Bendix Corporation - now a part of Honeywell, in 1966: "...if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products, why not die from it."

Today, most injured Americans have to rely on legal claims to seek compensation and financial assistance. These days, legal claims for injuries from asbestos exposure involve more plaintiffs, more defendants and higher costs than any other type of personal injury litigation. The cases with the greatest potential liability involve lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos in Industrial Settings

Despite knowing its harmful aftereffect, asbestos is still used in some U.S. industries. There is a wide range of industries and job sites that place workers at risk of asbestos exposure, including:

Asbestos poses a major health risk for everyone who comes into contact with it, both directly in a workplace environment and indirectly through secondhand exposure as asbestos fibers can be unwittingly brought home by workers on their skin, hair, equipment or personal items.

Contact Environmental Litigation Group

Today, asbestos continues to be used in gaskets, friction products, roofing materials, and in a limited number of industrial settings, such as for filtering chemicals. Currently, EPA claims to reinforce certain uses of the notorious carcinogen in order to protect public health. Thereby, EPA issued a broad new rule that strengthens the agency's ability to prevent or restrict certain asbestos products from being reintroduced into the market. However, this sort of rule is far away from banning the use of asbestos products altogether and putting people working in the related industries at high risk of asbestos-related diseases.

If you worked in an industrial plant and now struggling with lung cancer or another asbestos-related condition, our lawyers can review your case and see if you are eligible to file a claim.