Mesothelioma and Asbestos Laws

What is Mesothelioma in the United States

In the United States, Mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. It is a rare form of cancer that affects various body parts, including the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), heart (pericardial mesothelioma), and testes (testicular mesothelioma). Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma. In the United States, an estimated 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral used in buildings, construction, mining, and many other products. Apart from the production of construction materials and other commercial products, asbestos can also be released when the fibers of a weathered rock are disturbed. It can take several years for mesothelioma symptoms to show up. This means that people who once had prolonged exposure to asbestos are still at risk of developing mesothelioma or other diseases caused by asbestos exposure. It is important to note that limited or brief exposure to asbestos can also cause mesothelioma, even though the latency period may be longer than the one associated with prolonged exposure, which is around 30-50 years. Mesothelioma patients may be eligible for financial settlements or claims depending on the nature of their illness and the asbestos exposure site in question. Records of US mesothelioma settlement trials are, like most US court records, held in the judicial district where the claim was filed.

Individuals prone to mesothelioma include those who work in asbestos mines, factories that use asbestos in their products, and people who live in buildings that contain asbestos. Persons who live with asbestos workers are also at risk for mesothelioma.

History of Mesothelioma in United States

The earliest discovery of mesothelioma was in 1767 when Joseph Lieutaud, a French physician, reported it. In 1943, H.W Wedler, a German researcher, made the connection between asbestosis and pleural mesothelioma. Later in 1964, an American physician named Dr. Irvin J. Selikoff presented a report indicating that persons who had prolonged exposure to asbestos, such as asbestos plant workers, had a high mortality rate due to mesothelioma and other conditions asbestos-related diseases.

From 1970, the United States began to implement laws to regulate and limit the use of asbestos. These laws were modified over the years. Even though asbestos use is not completely banned in the US, the production and use of some specific asbestos products have been discontinued. These products include pipeline wraps, roofing felt, arch cutes, high-grade electrical paper, and building materials other than cement.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate in the United States

Asbestos use is regulated in the United States with varying requirements. Since some asbestos use has been discontinued, mesothelioma cases in the United States are not as high as in the 1980s before regulations were put in place. Regardless, persons who were exposed to asbestos before federal laws are still at risk for mesothelioma since symptoms may not show up for up to 50 years. This means that many mesothelioma patients are aged 65 or older. Many mesothelioma patients are former construction workers. However, other persons with a history of asbestos exposure are also at risk for the disease. Not everyone with a history of prolonged asbestos exposure gets mesothelioma. Generally, only about 2% to 10% of exposed persons suffer from mesothelioma.

In the United States, mesothelioma makes up about 0.3% of all cancer diagnoses. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type and makes up about 75% of mesothelioma diagnoses in the US. After mesothelioma symptoms begin to appear, the average life expectancy is one to two years. A person’s survival rate depends on how far the disease has progressed or how far the cancer tumor has spread in the person’s body. Mesothelioma specialists in the US categorize the disease into stages, depending on the severity. The categorization helps determine possible treatment options and the victim’s life expectancy. Mesothelioma categorizations are similar to the classifications that apply to other forms of cancer.

In Stage 1 mesothelioma cases, the tumor is in its early growth stages. Cancer has not spread to other nodes or body parts, and the patient has a higher life expectancy or survival rate. The life expectancy for a stage 1 mesothelioma patient is about two years. Stages 2 and 3 mesotheliomas have progressed further than stage 1. Cancer has spread to organs and body parts other than the lungs or stomach in these stages.

The life expectancy for stages 2 and 3 mesothelioma is between 18 and 20 months. Stage 4 mesothelioma is also called end-stage mesothelioma. The life expectancy for end-stage mesothelioma is about 15 months. It is important to note that patients who respond to treatment may live longer than the stated timelines. Ultimately, mesothelioma survival rates depend on the stage of the disease. Localized stages have an 18% survival rate, while distant stages have only about 7% survival rates.

Research has also shown that younger patients have higher survival rates than older patients. 50% of younger patients survive up to one year, while 33% of older patients survive the same period. Similarly, survival rates among female mesothelioma patients are higher than in male patients. After treatment, 13.4% of female patients are reported to survive up to five years. Comparatively, only 4.5% of male patients survive the same length of time after treatment.

Where is Asbestos Found in the United States

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral fiber typically found in soil and rock. It is widely used in building construction and other types of manufacturing because of its fire-retardant or heat-resistance properties. Asbestos is used in building materials like floor tiles, ceilings, cement, and roof shingles. Manufacturers also use asbestos in other products like coatings, automobile brakes and clutches, and gaskets. One can find asbestos in different parts of a building like attics, flooring tiles and adhesives, and walls. Other products that may contain asbestos include heat-resistant fabrics, hot water steam pipes, and textured paint. Due to its prevalent use, there are several US asbestos exposure sites including former schools, churches, hospitals, residences, and public buildings.

Since asbestos is naturally occurring, it can also be found outdoors in air or dust. Milling, weathering, and mining rocks with asbestos can result in asbestos exposure. Additionally, erosion of asbestos materials such as cement pipes, mills, and mines could result in asbestos exposure.

Due to its prevalent use, residents in most states in the US are at risk for asbestos exposure. However, some states have more natural asbestos deposits and constitute a higher exposure risk. These states include California, New York, Maine, Washington, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oregon, Maryland, and New Jersey.

Was Asbestos Banned in the United States?

No, asbestos was not completely banned in the United States. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the body responsible for regulating asbestos use in the country, most uses of asbestos are still permissible under federal law. However, the EPA put some guidelines and processes in place to protect the public from asbestos exposure and its consequences.

On the state level, the distribution or sale of asbestos materials is prohibited in New Jersey. While other states have not expressly banned asbestos use, there are strict regulations in place to ensure public safety and heavy fines for violations of state guidelines.

United States Laws & Regulations on Mesothelioma

As part of efforts to regulate asbestos use, the EPA uses the Toxic Substances Control Act. Under this act, the EPA implemented a partial ban on the importing, manufacturing, and processing some asbestos-containing products in 1989. Additionally, new uses of asbestos are banned under the same act. The EPA also implemented rules to ensure that discontinued asbestos products can no longer be re-introduced to the market without the agency’s evaluation. The EPA must consider and implement any necessary restrictions for such products to legally return to commerce.

Uses of asbestos banned by federal law include pipeline wrap, woven products, friction materials, cement, other building products, packaging, roofing felt, missile liner, reinforced plastic, arc chutes, roof coatings, sealants, and adhesives.

Some states have also implemented partial bans or heavy fines for asbestos use. An example of such a state is Washington, which banned asbestos use in automotive breaks. Other states, while having no asbestos bans in place, have laws regulating asbestos use and settlement claims. For example, Oklahoma has a Personal Injury Trust Fund Transparency Act, which requires claimants in a mesothelioma lawsuit to disclose other personal injury claims filed within 90 to 180 days of the mesothelioma filing.

New York state asbestos laws regulate worker training in asbestos-related industries, waste management facilities, asbestos transportation tracking, and asbestos handling.

Departments Overseeing Mesothelioma Laws in the United States

As provided by the Clean Air Act of 1970, the EPA is responsible for creating and overseeing mesothelioma laws in the United States. This responsibility is part of the EPA’s mandate to improve and protect air quality and the ozone layer in the US from hazardous air pollutants and carcinogenic substances. Another agency that participates in regulating asbestos exposure or mesothelioma laws at the federal level is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA enforces asbestos regulations and guidelines through immediate responses to complaints, fatalities, and targeted inspection programs.

At the state level, departments of health and other designated departments oversee mesothelioma laws. For example, in New York, the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation oversees asbestos laws in the state. In California, the Department of Industrial Relations has an asbestos and carcinogen unit that oversees occupational asbestos regulations in the state.

Occupational Regulations for Asbestos-Related Jobs in the United States

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a subdivision of the United States Department of Labor. The OSHA provides regulations for occupational safety and health standards where job-related asbestos exposure in the United States is concerned. This regulation covers different types of asbestos, including actinolite, amosite, chrysotile, tremolite, anthophyllite, and other materials that contain more than 1% asbestos.

OSHA’s occupational safety and health standard guidelines cover permissible exposure limits in all industries (employees may not be exposed to more than 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air) and excursion limits. The guidelines also cover monitoring methods, frequency, additional monitoring, and regulated areas. OSHA has separate policies for shipyard employment and construction work.

Shipyard employment and construction work regulations cover the demolition of vessels and structures containing asbestos, removal and installation of asbestos-containing materials, asbestos transportation, containment, disposal, storage, and asbestos spill.

Mesothelioma Infection Rate in the United States

Mesothelioma makes up just about 0.3% of cancer diagnoses in the United States - this means that compared to other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is rare. There are a reported 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed every year in the US. According to the National Library of Medicine, about 19,011 mesothelioma diagnoses were made in the United States between 2003 and 2008, a significant decline from diagnostic rates in the 1980s and 1990s when asbestos use was still prevalent. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that about 2,875 mesothelioma cases were diagnosed in 2018.

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) reports mesothelioma cases per 100,000 people. According to SEER, the highest mesothelioma incidents were reported in 1992. Out of every 100,000 people, 1.49 mesothelioma cases were reported. In the years following 2002, there have hardly been instances where more than one mesothelioma case per 100,000 people was reported.

Of all the recorded mesothelioma diagnoses, pleural mesothelioma was the most common, with a reported 3.05 cases per 100,000 people. States with the highest mesothelioma incident rates in the US include New Jersey, Washington, West Virginia, Maine, and Alaska. Typically, incident rates are higher in areas where there are asbestos factories.

Mesothelioma Treatment in the United States

In the United States, common treatments for mesothelioma include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, or a combination of the available treatment methods, which is also called multimodal therapy.

  • Surgery: This treatment method is beneficial to patients in the early mesothelioma stages. The procedure removes visible tumors from affected areas in the body, such as the lungs. Surgery may be combined with chemotherapy for a more effective result.
  • Chemotherapy: This is a treatment method beneficial to mesothelioma patients who are ineligible for surgery. Research shows that chemotherapy significantly increases the rate of survival in mesothelioma patients.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment method identifies and kills mesothelioma cells and helps the body limit tumor growth through antibodies.
  • Radiation: This is another treatment method used for patients ineligible for surgery. Radiation is beneficial in the reduction of pain and discomfort and can help reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • Multimodal therapy: This treatment method combines two or more treatment methods for a more aggressive approach.

The treatment option a patient receives may depend on the type of mesothelioma the patient is diagnosed with. While a definitive cure for mesothelioma does not currently exist, available treatment procedures have significantly improved over the years to increase patients’ chances of survival.

United States Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Mesothelioma or asbestos lawsuits are legal actions through which persons affected by mesothelioma or asbestos exposure seek compensation. Claimants may file individual lawsuits or file as part of a class action. While individual lawsuits grant claimants more control over the lawsuit, it can take longer to complete. Class action lawsuits are filed with several claimants that have similar complaints about the same defendant. The court typically allows class-action lawsuits when it would be impractical to have individual lawsuits. In a class-action lawsuit, a representative files a claim on behalf of the class.

Members of a class-action lawsuit waive their rights to individual lawsuits. Also, settlement amounts in class action lawsuits may be less than individual lawsuits because the settlement has to be distributed evenly between class members. Individual mesothelioma lawsuits are more common as it gives claimants a better chance of accessing sufficient compensation.

Another type of mesothelioma lawsuit is a mass tort lawsuit. Though similar, a mass tort lawsuit is not to be confused with class-action lawsuits; mass tort lawsuits allow individual claimants to make their case for or describe their mesothelioma exposure. Mass tort lawsuits also involve a large number of claimants who have suffered similar damages. In some cases, participants in a mass tort lawsuit have the same defendants.

Mesothelioma Claims and Settlements in the United States

A mesothelioma claim allows persons diagnosed with mesothelioma or loved ones of persons who died of mesothelioma to access compensation or damages from liable parties through legal action. The compensation typically covers hospital bills, funeral costs, lost income, and other damages incurred as a result of the mesothelioma diagnosis or death. It is rare for a mesothelioma lawsuit to go to trial as many claims are settled out of court. Claimants can expect to receive compensation for mesothelioma claims through trial verdicts, settlements, or a trust fund payment. There are different types of mesothelioma settlements and claims, which cater to different categories of claimants.

  • Personal injury lawsuits: A personal injury lawsuit can be filed by anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma. States have different statutes of limitation, but typically, mesothelioma patients are expected to file legal claims between one to three years of receiving a diagnosis.
  • Wrongful death lawsuits: This allows loved ones or authorized representatives of persons who died of mesothelioma to seek compensation. As in the case of personal injury lawsuits, claimants are expected to file wrongful death lawsuits within one to three years of the victim’s death.
  • Trust fund claims: Claimants may not file mesothelioma lawsuits against bankrupt entities. Most companies facing bankruptcy have trust fund claims set aside to compensate victims of mesothelioma or asbestos exposure. Therefore, victims of mesothelioma or their loved ones may file trust fund claims to access compensation.

It is important to note that claimants or their legal representatives will be required to prove asbestos exposure in court and to prove that the defendant is liable for the exposure. This may require claimants to present work history or medical records, death certificates, and in some cases, medical expert testimony.

US Asbestos Certification

Since the 1970s, asbestos has been regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA's regulations and state statutes, asbestos and asbestos-containing products can only be handled by persons who have received the appropriate US asbestos certification.

Asbestos-containing materials that are friable (can be crumbled or pulverized by human hands) must be labeled with a warning sign.

To be certified to remove friable asbestos-containing materials, workers must complete an accredited training program and pass an examination. There are two types of accredited programs: initial and refresher. Initial training programs must be at least 30 hours long and include classroom and laboratory instruction. Refresher courses must be at least eight hours long.

US Asbestos License Lookup

Individuals looking to hire asbestos handlers or abatement professionals are advised to contract licensed persons or companies for that purpose. In the United States, there are several licensed professionals and agencies.

To conduct an asbestos license lookup, contact the state or local environmental agency. They typically provide requestors with a list of licensed contractors.

Interested persons may also search for licensed asbestos contractors or verify their licenses online. The Environmental Protection Agency has a searchable database of licensed contractors. Users are required to enter their zip code to see a list of licensed companies and professionals within a specific mile radius.

The United States Asbestos Disclosure

Since asbestos exposure is known to put people at risk for mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other forms of cancer, some states in the US require property owners, sellers, or managers to disclose the presence of asbestos on a property. Property owners, sellers, or managers who have prior knowledge of the presence of asbestos on a property and fail to disclose the presence may be liable for damages suffered, and this could result in an asbestos lawsuit. While federal law does not mandate asbestos disclosure, some states require property sellers to prepare written statements to potential buyers about the state of the property before such persons make offers for the property in question. These disclosure statements typically cover the presence of potentially harmful substances like asbestos.

A state that requires written disclosures is Iowa. Sellers in the state must follow the real estate disclosure code as found in Iowa Code § 558A. California’s Health and Safety Code also requires building owners, specifically of buildings constructed before 1979, to disclose the presence of asbestos or asbestos-containing materials to employees working in the building. The disclosure must be made in writing and may also include an asbestos management plan. It is important for building owners who choose to implement asbestos management plans to notify employees of the existence of the management plan, the specific locations where asbestos is present or materials that contain asbestos in the building, potential risks associated with asbestos exposure, and surveillance/maintenance programs.

Maine is another state that requires asbestos disclosure under its Conveyance of Real Estate laws. According to state laws, real property sellers must provide written disclosures that inform potential buyers of the presence of hazardous materials like asbestos on the property. Since federal regulations do not mandate asbestos disclosure, potential property buyers or sellers must obtain required information from the state where the real property is located.

US Asbestos Regulating Agencies

There are several US asbestos regulating agencies that oversee the use of asbestos. However, the primary agency that functions in this capacity is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA regulates asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Other federally-operated agencies with some regulatory authority over asbestos include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Health. Some states also have regulations regarding asbestos.

As an asbestos-regulating agency, the EPA works to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure. After issuing a ban on asbestos in certain products, such as pipe insulation and floor tile, the EPA also set limits on how much asbestos can be used in selected products, such as cement and brake pads.

US Asbestos Lawsuit Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the time limit set by law within which a person must bring legal action. In the US, the asbestos statute of limitations varies from state to state.

In some states, the statute of limitations may be as short as one year from the date of diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease. The statute of limitations may be much longer in other states, giving people suffering from asbestos-related diseases more time to file a claim.

It is important to note that the statute of limitations is not always clear-cut. Many factors can affect the amount of time a person has to file a claim, including the type of disease and when it was diagnosed. In selected cases, the statute of limitations may be tolled or extended because asbestos exposure often occurs many years before symptoms of the disease develop.

How to Choose a Mesothelioma Lawyer in the United States

A US mesothelioma lawyer is pivotal to getting an adequate settlement for a mesothelioma claim. They also provide much-needed legal counsel to navigate the process of filing an asbestos lawsuit.

There are options for finding a mesothelioma lawyer in the United States. One option is to contact the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA can provide requestors with a list of lawyers who specialize in mesothelioma cases.

Another way to find a mesothelioma lawyer is to contact non-profit organizations that fund mesothelioma research and provide information and support services to patients and their families. These organizations typically maintain a list of lawyers who handle mesothelioma cases.

Mesothelioma lawyers can also be searched online. There are several online databases featuring lists of lawyers who handle mesothelioma cases. These websites typically provide information about the lawyers' experience and success rate in handling mesothelioma cases.