Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was widely used in construction and other industries until the late 1990s. Once these microscopic fibers are inhaled, they can get stuck deep in your lungs. The buildup of fibers remains in your lung tissue for a long time, often causing scarring and inflammation. This can lead to deadly diseases.
Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during their life. Low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. However, most people do not become ill from their exposure. People who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.
Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos. Professions and places where you might have been exposed to asbestos include:
- Navy shipyards
- Construction sites
- Veterans serving in the military
- Milling and mining
- Demolition workers
- Drywall removers
- Asbestos removal workers
- Automobile workers
- Household or cosmetic products
Types of Asbestos-Related Diseases
Ovarian Cancer and Asbestos Exposure
Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral made up mainly of the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As a powder, it absorbs moisture well and helps cut down on friction, making it useful for keeping skin dry and helping to prevent rashes. It is widely used in cosmetic products such as baby powder and adult body and facial powders, as well as in a number of other consumer products. In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled. One of the most common uses of talc in the cosmetic industry is talcum powder.
There is significant debate in the media and news concerning whether talc can cause cancer. When considering this, it is crucial to distinguish between talc that contains asbestos and talc that is asbestos-free. Talc containing asbestos is widely accepted as having the potential to cause cancer if it is inhaled. The evidence for asbestos-free talc is less clear.
Current research indicates that pure talc does not cause mesothelioma. However, talc that is contaminated with asbestos is known to lead to the development of mesothelioma. Asbestos-contaminated talc is known to cause:
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
It is thought that talcum powder could cause ovarian cancer if the powder particles (applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary. Further to this, multimillion-dollar verdicts have been awarded in recent talc lawsuits.
In June 2020, the Missouri Court of Appeal ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.1 billion to 22 women claiming Johnson & Johnson's baby powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The company has paid out millions in individual lawsuits, including $325 million in 2019 to a woman who claimed she developed mesothelioma by using Johnson's Baby Powder.
Mesothelioma is the most well-known asbestos-related cancer. It's also the most deadly asbestos-related illness. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that forms on the thin protective linings of the chest, abdomen, heart, or testicles. Every year, doctors in the United States diagnose approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma, many of which may be traced back to asbestos exposure on the job. To read more about this, please click here.
Asbestos Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the lead cause of cancer death in the United States. There are over 200,000 new lung cancer cases each year, with as many as 15% being attributed to exposure to asbestos.
Lung cancer is often associated with some sort of exposure to toxic substances. The vast majority of cases are caused by smoking, but research suggests that asbestos-related lung cancer is more prevalent than we realise. Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in many studies of asbestos-exposed workers. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the higher the risk of lung cancer.
Symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer include:
- chest pain
- coughing up phlegm or mucus
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- a persistent cough
- weight loss
Similarly to mesothelioma, lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure may be difficult to detect early because of the long latency period and the often non-specific symptoms that first present themselves. These difficulties can lead to misdiagnosis, which ultimately delays treatment.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition caused exclusively by inhaling asbestos fibres that have stuck in the lungs. This causes scar tissue to form inside the lungs, thus preventing them from expanding and contracting normally.
Symptoms of asbestosis include a cough and shortness of breath. Currently, asbestosis is not curable and there are no medications that will slow down pulmonary fibrosis once it has developed. However, it is thought the pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy may help improve your quality of life.
How We Can Help
If you've been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may wish to speak with a mesothelioma attorney to discuss your legal options. Our attorneys have extensive experience in asbestos cases and the resources to maximize your recovery. Please contact us for a free, confidential, and no-obligation review of your potential legal claim and see how we can help!