When you are given a mesothelioma diagnosis, there is one thing you know for sure: at some point in your life, you were a victim of asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is caused by inhaling the tiny shards of asbestos that become airborne when this dangerous mineral is handled.
Before the 1970s, many US corporations used asbestos without taking precautions to avoid dangerous asbestos exposure. This negligent disregard for human health and safety led to a growing number of lawsuits.
Today, legal action is one of the best ways for mesothelioma patients to get compensation for the harm done to them. Before you file your claim, you will need to work with your asbestos attorney to investigate the sources of your asbestos exposure. Armed with this information, your mesothelioma law firm will understand where to seek damages.
1. Understand Asbestos Exposure Risks
Researchers have studied the effects of prolonged asbestos exposure, but less is known about short term exposure. Because the effects may be cumulative, one key to investigating your asbestos exposure is to come up with a complete list of all the times and places you might have been around asbestos fibers.
Asbestos can lurk where you don’t expect it. When you begin to investigate your asbestos exposure, it’s important to understand all the places in your life where you might have come into contact with it.
Here are some places to look through your life history for asbestos exposure:
- At work. This is the most common source of asbestos exposure.
- In the military. Many veterans have developed mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure during their service.
- In your home or office. Asbestos was used in building materials, especially in the middle decades of the last century, and can become airborne during renovations or remodeling.
- From a family member. Mesothelioma is not contagious, but family members of people who worked around asbestos can get it from the fibers brought home on their clothing.
2. Go Back in Time
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer with a very long fuse. Some people become ill within 10 years after asbestos exposure. More often, however, it can take several decades before you develop mesothelioma cancer.
When you begin to investigate your history of asbestos exposure, you will need to go back in time, to the first job you ever had and to the early years of your life. Don’t rule out things that happened in the distant past; they could be related to your condition. Some law firms, including our sponsors Kazan Law, employ asbestos investigators who can help you reconstruct your asbestos exposure history.
Another time factor is that asbestos was most commonly and widely used in the United States from the 1940s through the mid-1970s. If you worked around asbestos during this period, you are more likely to have possibly experienced severe asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is still legal in the US and still used in some industrial and building materials, but at much lower concentrations. Yet no matter the concentration, no level of exposure to asbestos can be considered full proof and safe.
3. Uncover Asbestos Exposure in Your Work History
A good way to start investigating your asbestos exposure is to write down every job you have held in your life, from your first paper route to your most recent position. Some professions, corporations, or workplaces are more associated with asbestos exposure than others, but don’t rule anything out until your law firm has a chance to investigate.
Jobs that have a higher risk for asbestos exposure include:
- Boiler room workers. Asbestos has heat insulating properties and was used in the insulation around boilers, particularly on ships.
- Factory workers. You might have worked for a companythat used asbestos or asbestos containing products in its manufacturing processes. Or you might have worked with components, manufactured elsewhere, that contained asbestos.
- Construction workers. Asbestos was used in many building materials, including drywall, insulation, and roof tiles. After construction is completed the asbestos in these materials is usually safe, as long as it remains in place. Construction workers are in danger during installation and when the materials are ripped out during remodeling.
- Auto mechanics. Asbestos was used in brake linings for many years, and mechanics may have encountered it during repairs.
This is a very partial list. There are many other workers whose jobs could have brought a risk of asbestos exposure: plumbers, pipe-fitters, shipbuilders, and more.
Don’t rule out any of your past jobs until an investigator has a chance to do further research.
4. Understand Asbestos Exposure During Your Military Service
Vietnam vets are at particularly high risk for illness due to asbestos exposure in the military, but all veterans have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than the general population. This is particularly true for those who served in the 1970s or earlier.
As you investigate your asbestos exposure, think back through your military service and list all the places you were stationed and the positions you held. Military personnel were exposed to asbestos in many of the same ways that civilian workers were: on ships, in boiler rooms, during construction, while repairing vehicles, and so on.
The VA has special resources to help veterans with mesothelioma.
5. Find Asbestos in Your Home
There have been some cases of mesothelioma in people who never worked outside the home. If that’s your situation, you may have been exposed to asbestos in building materials disturbed during home remodeling. If you are a DIY type of person, you could also have come across asbestos in the course of home repairs you completed yourself.
More likely, however, your asbestos exposure came from someone you lived with. There have been many cases of mesothelioma where a wife became ill from handling and washing her husband’s work clothes, which were covered in asbestos fibers. Even the simple act of a father hugging his child when he walked in the door from work could have sent asbestos dust flying airborne, though he didn’t know it at the time.
Part of your asbestos exposure investigation is a list of the people you have lived with and their professions.
Finding all the potential sources of asbestos exposure over a span of many decades can feel like a big task. Kazan Law has found a way to ease the burden: we keep a database of known sources of asbestos. We keep adding to this knowledge base as we learn more from each client. This streamlines the investigative process and takes much of the