Asbestos

Unlike some law firms, Blackwell and Associates handles cases for all diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, including pleural plaques, pleural effusion, asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.


Asbestos-related lung diseases are diseases that develop from exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a mineral that was once widely used in many industries.


Asbestos is made up of tiny fibers that can escape into the air. When breathed in, these fibers can stay in your lungs for a long time. If the fibers build up in your lungs, they can lead to conditions causing serious injury or even death:

  • Asbestosis - This is a respiratory disease in which the lung tissue becomes scarred. People who have asbestosis are at greater risk for lung cancer, especially if they smoke.
  • Lung cancer - A cancer that forms in the lung tissue, usually in the cells lining the air passages.
  • Mesothelioma - This type of cancer generally targets the pleura or membranes surrounding the lungs and chest, the lining of the peritoneum or abdominal cavity, and the membranes surrounding the pericardium or heart.
  • Pleural effusion - In this condition, excess fluid builds up in the pleural space. The pleural space is the area between the lungs and the chest wall.
  • Pleural plaques - In this condition, the tissue around the lungs and diaphragm thickens and hardens.

If you have contracted one of these diseases from workplace-related asbestos exposure, Blackwell & Associates has the experience to help you recover damages for your pain and suffering, to help with medical costs and make up for your lost wages. Our firm has been very successful in getting cash awards for our clients, and we would be happy to consult with you regarding your personal situation.


Who Is At Risk for Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases?
Until the late 1970s, asbestos was widely used in many industries in the United States. Since then, safety rules and measures have been put into place to ensure worker’s safety.  However, since asbestos does not generally cause damage until 10 to 40 years after exposure, many people are now suffering from conditions brought about by their asbestos exposure many years ago.


Asbestos was used in many products such as steam pipes, boilers, furnaces, and furnace ducts; wallboard; floor and ceiling tiles; wood-burning stoves and gas fireplaces; car brakes, clutches, and gaskets; railroad engines; roofing and shingles; and wall-patching materials and paints.


Asbestos also was used in various other items, such as fireproof gloves, ironing board covers, cooking pot handles, and hairdryers.


Anyone employed for a prolonged period in mining, milling, making, or installing asbestos products before the late 1970’s is at risk for asbestos-related lung diseases. Some examples of these workers include:

  • Aircraft and auto mechanics
  • Boiler operators
  • Building construction workers
  • Building engineers
  • Chemical plant workers
  • Electricians
  • Miners
  • Paper mill workers
  • Railroad workers
  • Refinery workers
  • Shipyard workers

The risk is greatest for people who worked with asbestos and were exposed for at least several months to visible dust from asbestos fibers. The risk for asbestos-related lung diseases also depends on:

  • How much asbestos you were exposed to.
  • How long you were exposed to asbestos, and how often during that time you were in direct contact with it.
  • The size, shape, and chemical makeup of the asbestos fibers. Different types of asbestos fibers can affect the lungs differently.
  • Your individual risks, such as smoking or existing lung diseases.

Family members of people exposed to asbestos on the job also may be at risk. Family members may have breathed in asbestos fibers that were brought home on workers’ clothes, shoes, and bodies.


What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases?
The signs and symptoms of asbestos-related lung diseases vary. They depend on the disease and how much lung damage has occurred. Signs and symptoms may not appear for 10 to 40 or more years after exposure to asbestos.


The main symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath with physical exertion. You also may have a dry cough and feel tired. If your doctor listens to your lungs with a stethoscope, he or she may hear a crackling sound when you breathe in.


The symptoms of lung cancer may include a worsening cough or a cough that won't go away, trouble breathing, ongoing chest pain, and coughing up blood. Other symptoms of lung cancer include frequent lung infections, fatigue and weight loss without a known cause.


Symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath and chest pain due to pleural effusion.


If you have pleural plaque, you may not have any signs or symptoms. Pleural effusion may cause pain in the chest on one side. Both conditions often are found with a chest x ray. These conditions may occur earlier than other asbestos-related lung diseases.


How Are Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases Diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose an asbestos-related lung disease based on your past exposure to asbestos, your symptoms, a physical exam, and the results from tests.


Specialists Involved
Your primary care doctor, such as a family doctor or internist, may think you’re at risk for or have an asbestos-related lung disease and provide ongoing care. Other specialists also may be involved in your care, including pulmonologists, radiologists, oncologists and pathologists.


Examinations and Testing
Your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including listening to your breathing with a stethoscope to find out whether your lungs are making any strange sounds. Your doctor will check your legs for swelling, which may be a sign of lung-related problems. He or she also will check your fingers for clubbing. Clubbing is the widening and rounding of the tips of your fingers and toes.


Your doctor will also probably perform a chest x-ray, the most common test for detecting asbestos-related lung diseases. To help confirm a chest x-ray finding or to find out how much lung damage you have, you may have more diagnostic tests, including a chest CT scan, lung function tests, and a biopsy.


Living With Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases
The outlook for people who have asbestos-related lung diseases varies. It will depend on which disease they have and how much it has damaged their lungs. No treatments can reverse the effects of asbestos on your lungs. However, treatments may help relieve symptoms and prevent complications. If you have lung cancer, treatments may help slow the progress of the disease. If you have an asbestos-related lung disease, you'll need routine follow-up care for the rest of your life. This may include chest x-rays and lung function tests every 3 to 5 years.


Follow your treatment plan as your doctor prescribes. Call your doctor if you notice new or worsening symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether you should get flu and pneumonia vaccines. These vaccines can help lower your risk for lung infections. Avoiding lung infections can help prevent other, more serious complications.


If you smoke, quit. Smoking raises your risk for lung cancer if you have pleural plaque, pleural effusion, or asbestosis.
Talk to your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.


Emotional Issues and Support
Living with an asbestos-related lung disease may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. It's important to talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you're feeling very depressed, your health care team or counselor may prescribe medicines to make you feel better.


Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with an asbestos-related lung disease. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk to your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.

 

Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.