Every year in the U.S., according to a new Environmental Working Group (EWG) study, almost 10,000 deaths in the U.S. are attributed to asbestos exposure. When broken down that means 30 deaths per day are because of asbestos exposure and the numbers do not appear to be declining. Since asbestos exposure can take ten to fifty years to develop into asbestos related diseases, the deaths and illnesses now being suffered are a result of exposure to asbestos in the work construction industries during the 1960s and through to the 1980s.
Many Americans are confused as to why asbestos related deaths and illnesses are still occurring since the belief is that asbestos has been banned. This is a common misconception. In 1989, the EPA banned the use of asbestos in all new uses and created standards, but any already containing asbestos products remained. According to a 2004 U.S. Geological Survey, asbestos use is 80 percent contained in roofing products, eight percent contained in gaskets, four percent contained in friction products, and eight percent contained in other consumer products.
Occupational exposure to asbestos can still be widely found for car mechanics, construction workers, and many other industries, as well as exposure within homes containing asbestos in roofing and insulation. Asbestos is found everywhere and unless consumers are continually inquiring about the presence of asbestos in various products the exposure to the carcinogen could be potentially very high for some individuals. The only measure that would be considered adequate is an immediate ban on asbestos, according to the EWG report conclusion.
The states with the highest number of deaths from asbestosis and mesothelioma are California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. In nine of the ten states that have the highest asbestos rates, the number of mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths continued to increase every year from 1979 to 2001. The number of mesothelioma and asbestosis that go undetected or misdiagnosed is also considered to be substantial, thus creating a great underestimate of actual asbestos illnesses suffered. The greatest number of asbestos disease rates was found in Los Angeles, CA; Cook County, IL; Philadelphia County, PA; King County, WA; and Harris County, TX.
More than 730,000 asbestos claims have been filed through 2002 according to The Rand Institute for Civil Justice, and a study released in January 2004 showed that 100,000 more asbestos claims were filed in 2003, though some are thought to be duplicates of suits previously filed against other defendants. The costs associated to the hundreds of thousands of asbestos lawsuits could ultimately reach $200 to $265 billion before asbestos litigation is complete. Insurers spent $1.02 million in 2003 trying to decrease the number of asbestos lawsuits and lower their liability by pushing for the bill that would set up a trust fund to provide compensation for those with asbestos diseases.
The problem with the trust fund is that there have already been inadequate funds for people injured because of asbestos exposure and if people continue to suffer from the asbestos disease for decades to come they may have nowhere to turn when the funds have been depleted.
The EPA has a general guide to show what types of materials may contain asbestos. Included on the list is:
Asphalt Floor Tile
Vinyl Floor Tile
Vinyl Sheet Flooring
Construction Mastics (floor, tile, carpet, ceiling tile, etc.)
Ceiling Tiles and Lay-in Panels
Taping Compounds (thermal)
Packing Materials (for wall/floor penetrations)
High Temperature Gaskets
Laboratory Hoods/Table Tops
Elevator Equipment Panels
Elevator Brake Shoes
HVAC Duct Insulation
Ductwork Flexible Fabric Connections
Pipe Insulation (corrugated air-cell, block, etc.)
Heating and Electrical Ducts
Electrical Panel Partitions
Electric Wiring Insulation
Thermal Paper Products
Vinyl Wall Coverings
While companies are afraid asbestos lawsuits will continue for decades because of the latency period between exposure and disease onset, people have been suing for health damages related to asbestos since the 1930s. Manufacturers have had scientific evidence of asbestos dangers since the 1940s but have been involved with cover-ups and industry deception. Asbestos can still be found in countless materials, allowing inhalation of the dangerous minerals to men, women, and children. The EWG group estimates 100,000 more Americans will die from mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos related lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancer because of exposure in the next ten years
For more information on asbestos exposure, please contact us.