Houston Mesothelioma Attorneys
Helping Individuals & Families Affected by Mesothelioma & Asbestosis Nationwide
Asbestos exposure has been linked to fatal lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Inadequately protected workers would carry the asbestos fibers home to their families on their clothes. As these workers would dust off or wash their clothes, the fibers would become airborne again and put their families at the same risk. Unfortunately, many companies have known about the dangers of asbestos exposure since the 1940s, but they neglected to warn employees or provide protective gear. Because of their negligence, many companies have knowingly placed not only their employees but also their employees’ families in danger of developing serious medical conditions.
As one of the oldest, most infamous personal injury torts, asbestos exposure is still affecting people nearly a century after it was first discovered to cause a unique form of lung cancer. If a loved one has ever suffered mesothelioma, they suffered from asbestos exposure—mesothelioma has no other known causes. If you are looking for an attorney to help, give Arnold & Itkin a call. We can determine your odds in court and help you get the medical support you need. Our firm has been involved in some of the biggest injury cases nationwide and has secured billions for our clients.
Below, our firm has provided a brief primer on asbestos exposure and how / why it causes lung disease.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name for a group of minerals that have been found to occur naturally together.
Asbestos is silicate compounds that have been found to have similar properties among them, including:
- Resistance to heat
- Inability to conduct electricity
- Tensile strength
The mineral is fibrous, which is important for reasons we discuss below. These properties made them popular as insulation material in factories, as it was relatively resistant to most conditions common to industrial work. They were also affordable—which made them an attractive option in the construction, shipbuilding, and automotive industries during the Industrial Revolution. During this time, they became commonplace in insulation material, manufactured goods (e.g., brake pads), as well as plaster, drywall, and even concrete and bricks.
Unfortunately, as early as the late 19th century, there was a demonstrable link between asbestos exposure and early death, as well as respiratory issues. This culminated in the 1970s when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned all asbestos use in wallboard patching compounds and gas fireplaces. During this time, certain companies voluntarily quit using them. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned all new uses and implemented regulations for inspecting buildings. Since the first warnings signs of asbestos, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, EPA, and International Agency for Research have officially classified asbestos as a known carcinogen.
Explaining the Health Hazards of Asbestos Exposure
The mesothelium is a protective tissue that lines the lungs and other vital organs. When asbestos is inhaled, asbestos fibers interact with mesothelial cells and wrap around the chromosomes, causing mutation. The mutation can result in immunosuppressive disorders, which stop white blood cells from killing tumor cells. The mesothelial mutation allows foreign DNA to enter the cells. The introduction causes cells to have only one chromosome where there should be two, which constitutes a gene abnormality. This rapidly increases the odds of forming tumors.
Both mesothelioma and asbestosis result from asbestos’ unique properties. Because the mineral is made of practically indestructible microscopic fibers that do not break down easily, some of these strands can get inhaled and embed permanently within the walls of the lungs. The silicate fibers irritate the flesh and form scar tissue, which affects the way that lungs move. This results in not only pain but coughing and shortness of breath. This is asbestosis. The development of scar tissue can eventually lead to tumor growth when the condition becomes mesothelioma.
Here’s the difficult thing about asbestos exposure:
Mesothelioma can take as long as 50 years to develop. It can be difficult to prove where and when the asbestos exposure caused it, which can severely complicate a personal injury claim.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Symptoms of cancer in the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall can include chest pain, fluid around the lungs, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and anemia. Coughing up blood, wheezing, and hoarseness can also be symptoms of mesothelioma in the chest cavity. Mesothelioma cancer can also be found in the protective membrane lining the abdominal cavity. When the mesothelial cells of the chest cavity are exposed to asbestos, they mutate and form cancer cells. Symptoms may include bowel difficulties, swelling and pain in the abdominal area, and weight loss. These symptoms may not necessarily be the result of asbestos cancer, but you should still check with your doctor if any of these are present.
How Your Doctor Can Test Symptoms for Mesothelioma
General Physical Examination
This will likely be the first thing your doctor does. It will include a chest X-ray and blood work.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
If your doctor believes you have indications of asbestos cancer, they will likely run a CBC. This is also known as an FBC (full blood count), and it assesses the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A CBC will also test for the percentage of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to the lungs, in red blood cells. Finally, your doctor may also test for sedimentation rate, which is the rate at which red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. Infections and cancer cause red blood cells to drop faster than healthy red blood cells.
A surgical biopsy requires a surgeon or oncologist to remove a sample of the suspected tissue for examination in a laboratory. The biopsy is done in different ways. If the sample is needed from the lung area, a small incision is made in the chest wall, and a thoracoscope (a thin, lit tube with a camera on the end) is inserted between two ribs, allowing the doctor to look inside the chest cavity. A biopsy for mesothelioma cancer in the abdomen is done with a peritoneoscope. For this procedure (known as peritoneoscopy), the abdomen cavity is inflated with gas, and a small incision is made to insert the scope. The doctor can then take a sample of tissue while examining the abdominal cavity.
Common Questions About Asbestos & Asbestos-Related Cancer
Where Can Asbestos Be Found?
Before it was phased out, asbestos was widely used in different industries because it was affordable and durable. This included manufacturing of homes, vehicles, piping, and certain types of cement. Homes built before 1970 are particularly at risk, as they may have been built using asbestos materials. Asbestos was also commonly used in the manufacturing industry, meaning workers in industrial facilities are at risk.
How Can I Know If I Have Mesothelioma?
The symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to other, less dangerous diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and even the common cold. Those who have chest pain, fatigue, weight loss, shortness of breath, and coughing should consider going to the doctor for a physical examination, especially those who believe that they have been exposed to asbestos. More serious symptoms include coughing up blood and respiratory issues.
What Is Malignant Mesothelioma & What Is the Prognosis?
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive form of lung cancer with a long latency period. An individual can go upward of 30 years without knowing that they have contracted the illness. This frequently results in patients discovering cancer when it is in its later and more aggressive stages. Mesothelioma that has spread from the lymph nodes to other organs in the body have an even bleaker outlook for recovery. Many of those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma die within a year of their initial diagnosis, although this is typical for more severe cases.
Who Is Most at Risk for Developing the Disease?
Those who worked in the manufacturing industry at any point throughout the past 50 years should consider the possibility that they were exposed to asbestos, particularly those who worked in the automobile and construction industries. Also, those who lived with manufacturing workers may have been exposed. Others that may have contracted mesothelioma include those who live or have lived in homes built before 1970.
How Does Asbestos Cancer Spread?
Asbestos cancer can spread to healthy tissue from malignant cells. Another method for the spread is through lymphatic fluids, which then cause malignancy of lymph nodes. Blood can also carry cancer cells. Cancer can enter into veins and capillary walls and use the blood to travel.
What Is Staging?
Staging is the process of determining if the asbestos cancer has spread. Staging tests can include X-rays, ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasound, and MRIs. These allow physicians to see if or where your asbestos cancer has spread, which determines to which stage cancer has progressed.
What Are the Current Treatment Options?
Asbestos cancer treatment options depend on several factors, which include the stage of cancer, the overall health and age of the individual, and the feasibility to remove tumors surgically. Individuals should consult with their physicians about treatment options. Treatments may be "standard," which is defined as being generally accepted, widely used, and appropriate for the type of cancer you have. Other options may include clinical trials testing the effectiveness of a new treatment or an improvement to an existing treatment.
Individuals should discuss all treatment options with their doctor to determine what is best for each case of asbestos cancer.
Who Is Responsible?
Asbestos cancer has been found to occur in people who have either worked around or been exposed to asbestos fibers floating in the air. Often, these airborne asbestos fibers were the result of negligence by a company that allowed fibers to be free-floating. Supplying proper protective gear and adherence to OSHA and EPA asbestos regulations is the responsibility of any employer where asbestos exposure is a risk. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, companies began to learn about the connection between cancer in the lung and asbestos exposure. Many of these companies elected to inform neither or protect their workers. Asbestos cancer can take up to 50 years to produce symptoms. After 50 years, many people have moved on to other jobs and companies' ownership can change hands many times, making it more difficult to find the exact individuals who are liable.
Information Regarding Asbestosis
Asbestosis is a serious lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is characterized by shortness of breath during exertion, chest pain, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Asbestosis is brought on by breathing airborne asbestos dust, fibers, or particles. Most cases take 5 to 10 years after exposure for asbestosis to become apparent, but it can take as long as 20.
To date, there is no known cure for asbestosis.
You can only try to prevent further damage by removing yourself from exposure.
There are several treatments available to help ease the symptoms, including medication. In severe cases, a lung transplant may be needed.
Contact a Mesothelioma Lawyer from Our Firm Today: (888) 493-1629
It is extremely important that you do not hesitate to get the involvement of a lawyer to help evaluate your claim, build a case, and fight for you. You need lawyers who are experienced, driven, and understand the depth of your injury. Arnold & Itkin LLP understands first and foremost the health concerns, but we also understand you may have even lost your job and are worried about how to pay for the cost of treatment. Our attorneys will make sure you can meet your financial obligations, receive the medical care you need, and find those responsible for your illness.
Call (888) 493-1629 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. We never charge a fee until we win your case.