Asbestos Still a Leading Cause of Workplace Death

11/22/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // Mesothelioma lawyers: Cooney & Conway

It is no secret that asbestos exposure poses grave health risks. That was scientifically shown, and accepted, decades ago. And the lawsuits brought—and often won—by mesothelioma lawyers have proven the point time and time again.

But a more surprising revelation is how, even now, years after scientists discovered how lethal asbestos is, the material is still a leading cause of workplace death.

In British Columbia, Canada, health officials announced in early September that asbestos exposure is the number one cause of workplace death. That’s the case even though the fire- and heat-resistant material was largely phased out of Canada by the 1990s.

But if the material is no longer used, why the deaths? The reasons are sobering, and not just in Canada, but in the U.S. as well.

For one thing, asbestos typically triggers diseases like mesothelioma—an aggressive cancer of the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs—decades after exposure. So those who worked with or around asbestos thirty, even forty years ago, may just now be getting diagnosed. And that diagnosis is invariably grim.

Mesothelioma lawyers have had great success in obtaining large, often multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements against manufacturers, employers and building owners who exposed others to asbestos. Mesothelioma researchers, on the other hand, have fared less well, with a long-term treatment—let alone a cure—still proving elusive.

Another factor behind asbestos’s far-reaching dangers is that the material is still present in many older structures: factories, offices, homes, and even schools.

Asbestos removal can be fraught with peril, too, if not done carefully. If the material is disturbed or improperly disposed of, asbestos fibers can be released into the air, where they can be easily inhaled by those nearby, increasing the risk of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related conditions.

In British Columbia, the organization WorkSafe BC has compiled documents showing about 50 asbestos-related workplace deaths annually in the Canadian province, but a spokesman says the actual toll is far higher since the statistics cover only workers who have filed compensation claims.

Anecdotal evidence of asbestos’s dangers is compelling, and worrisome. In Trail, British Columbia, representatives of the United Steelworkers say they began noticing that many workers who had retired from Teck Cominco (formerly The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada) zinc and lead smelting plant were affected by asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. The union has identified nearly 100 such victims who worked in the smelter between the late 1940s and late 1970s.

While mesothelioma itself may be difficult to detect, the impact of the disease has been catastrophic.

“I’ve seen firsthand what some of these people go through, and their families go through,” United Steelworkers Local 480 President Doug Jones told the Postmedia News agency. “It’s just horrible.”

This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we’ve brought relief—and recovery—to those injured by the negligence or harmful actions of others. In the process, we’ve litigated some of the country’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, helping victims of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases get answers and justice.

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