Last week I talked about asbestos, that insidious substance that threatens the health and lives of New York construction workers. This week I want to talk about two of the most common and deadly diseases that workers develop when they inhale microscopic asbestos fibers over long periods of time at work: mesothelioma and asbestosis. Mesothelioma is an aggressive lung cancer and asbestosis is a lung-scarring disease.
Neither disease is curable. Once diagnosed, the best your doctor can do is make you as comfortable as possible by minimizing your symptoms. Unfortunately, New York ranks fifth in the number of deaths resulting from mesothelioma and asbestosis. In the 16-year period between 1999 and 2015, almost 2,400 New Yorkers died from mesothelioma alone.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of your mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue that encases your various internal organs. Consequently, this cancer can appear virtually anywhere in your body. The four most common types of mesothelioma are:
- Pleural – occurs in your lungs
- Peritoneal – occurs in your abdomen
- Pericardial – occurs in your heart
- Tunica vaginalis testis – occurs in your testes if you are a man
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,400-2,800 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year nationwide. If you are one of them, bear in mind that most mesothelioma diagnoses occur decades after your initial on-the-job asbestos exposure. How long you can expect to live after your diagnosis depends on a number of factors, including the following:
- Where it is located in your body
- The type(s) of cells involved
- What stage of cancer you already have reached
- Your age and overall health
- Whether the cancer has metastasized; i.e., spread to additional organs
Experts fear that mesothelioma diagnoses will only increase in New York City as a result of the more than 4,000 tons of dust and debris that fell over the city when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11. All of this contained asbestos and millions of people consequently inhaled asbestos fibers, especially those who worked on “the Pile.”
Asbestosis is not a cancer. Rather it is a chronic, debilitating and progressive disease caused by your lungs becoming scarred by repeated asbestos inhalation. In 2014, 558 residents of New York City and Long Island were hospitalized for this condition according to the New York Department of Health.
Not only does asbestosis make it difficult for you to breathe, it also often leads to other serious conditions such as pleurisy, heart failure, lung collapse, pulmonary hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you smoke, your habit only exacerbates an already grave condition. As with mesothelioma, your doctor may not be able to make a definitive asbestosis diagnosis until decades after your initial asbestos exposure. By then, your lung capacity may have decreased by as much as 25 percent.
One of the major problems with asbestosis is that you likely will experience generalized symptoms that make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose asbestosis as opposed to some other ailment. For instance, you could experience one or more of the following:
- Frequent coughing
- Frequent shortness of breath
- Recurrent respiratory infections
- Chest pain or feelings of tightness
- Weight loss from no apparent cause
- Sudden fevers of over 100 degrees
With either mesothelioma or asbestosis, your medical costs can skyrocket due to the fact that both are progressive diseases and both usually take years to diagnose, during which time your doctor likely will be treating you for other diseases that your symptoms could indicate, but in this case are not the real cause of your continuing distress. Between frequent doctor visits, various treatment modalities and prescription medication costs, your medical bills can easily total several hundred thousand dollars.
As I stated last week, you may wish to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer(s) who knew or should have known that your workplace was not safe. Alternatively, you may wish to file a product liability suitagainst the manufacturer(s) and distributor(s) of the asbestos-containing materials and products whose asbestos fibers you inhaled every day at work.
If you need a personal injury or product liability litigator or if you are an attorney who needs outside personal injury or product liability litigation help, please call Richard A. Dubi toll-free at 833-FOR-DUBI (833-367-3824).