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Individuals who were exposed to asbestos either at work or by second-hand exposure often have many questions about whether they may be at risk for developing mesothelioma, a deadly and incurable lung disease linked to asbestos. While the dangers of asbestos have been known for many decades, the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma can take an equally long time to manifest themselves, which can make the disease difficult to understand.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer that affects a thin line of tissue surrounding the body’s internal organs, most often the lungs and abdomen. Although the overwhelming majority of people exposed to asbestos will not develop mesothelioma, about 2,000 to 3,000 are diagnosed every year with the aggressive cancer.

While each case is different, most individuals exposed to asbestos that eventually develop mesothelioma will not do so for anywhere from 20 to 50 years. During that time, other health conditions with similar symptoms can mask the signs of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos and delay diagnosis and treatment.

A Tennessee county recently settled a mesothelioma-asbestos exposure lawsuit with the widow of a former school teacher who allegedly contracted the deadly lung disease while working for the county decades ago. The lawsuit had been slated to go to a trial by jury just a few days before the settlement but the recent discovery of asbestos on school grounds may have prompted county officials to reconsider resolving the issue.

The victim worked for a pair of Knox County schools, South-Doyle High School and Fulton High School, from the 60’s until the late 90’s, before he developed mesothelioma and passed away from his condition in 2011. During his time at the two institutions, the plaintiff recalled seeing what he later knew to be asbestos falling from the ceilings of his classrooms and other buildings.

While the exact number of the settlement is unclear, the compensation is expected to be no more than $300,000, as the state’s government liability to tort claims is limited to this number under the law. The county is expected to spend another $250,000 on asbestos removal to ensure no one at the school is put at risk of developing asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma.

Due to its causal link to mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer, industrial use and removal of asbestos is now highly regulated by state and federal organizations to prevent workers from being exposed to the substance. However, there are still many ways for ordinary people to be exposed to asbestos and contract serious health conditions that they might not be aware of.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is extracted from the earth and processed for use in industrial products. For many decades, asbestos was used in all sorts of industrial applications including automotive parts, insulation in buildings, naval vessels, and other situations requiring the heat resistant qualities of the product.

One of the most common ways for individuals to be exposed to asbestos, and possibly contract mesothelioma, is having a family member working with the product come home wearing clothing covered in the mineral. By nature, asbestos is a fibrous material which makes it prone to becoming airborne and entering the respiratory system of nearby people, unaware they are breathing in a deadly substance.

Since the 1970s, the federal government has recognized the dangers asbestos poses to the health and safety of those who come in contact with it. To that end, the government empowered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate asbestos contaminated sites across the country and force responsible parties to take accountability in the clean up effort.

On December 11, 1980, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), informally known as Superfund. The law works by putting a tax on chemical and gas companies as well as giving the EPA the authority to respond to environmental disasters.

To keep track of contaminated sites, the EPA created a National Priorities List (NPL) which includes areas like mines, factories, shipyards, and other industrial sites where asbestos has been detected. Over the years, the EPA has initiated numerous asbestos clean up efforts, putting the financial burden on the shoulders of the asbestos producers and product users.

By now most of us are familiar with the lawsuits and settlements associated with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. As victims of asbestos exposure finally get the justice and compensation they deserve, even more are left out to fight on their own as the defendants in these cases continue to deny liability for their dangerous products.

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that an individual exposed to asbestos in his or her everyday life developed the rare, deadly lung disease mesothelioma, manufacturers of the products in question refuse to compensate victims appropriately. More often than not, plaintiffs turn to experienced mesothelioma attorneys to aid them in their time of need.

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