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Asbestos exposure, healthcare costs and lawsuits

If hearing the word asbestos doesn’t give you the jitters then you haven’t known enough about it and its hazardous effects. This is not to scare you but just to make you aware of one of the most commonly used construction materials, which is not yet banned despite claiming so many lives.

Mesothelioma is one of the rarest forms of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It’s not just mesothelioma but asbestosis, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and many other forms of cancer that are caused by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos exposure- Some important facts

  • There are more than 50 countries that have banned the usage of asbestos including the countries in EU, and Australia
  • The 9/11 attacks released more than 2000 tonnes of the harmful substance into the air risking the lives of rescue workers and the victims
  • The US has not banned the use of asbestos but it has in place some strict regulatory measures regarding its usage.
  • Every day, nearly 1.3 million American workers go to workplaces that expose them to asbestos.
  • The number of deaths due to asbestos worldwide is not clear.
  • 125 million people currently in the world are exposed to asbestos at their workplaces according to a WHO report.
  • It is estimated that asbestos kills 12,000 to 15,000 people in the US, every year.
  • Any smaller level of asbestos exposure can cause illness.
  • The latency period for mesothelioma is 35 to 40 years.
  • In India, the Supreme Court has banned asbestos in January 2011 yet the hazardous substance is used widely across the country.
  • Russia is the largest producer of asbestos in the world that mined 1,100,000 tonnes of asbestos in 2017

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) issued a ban (ABPR, expanded as Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule) in 1989 which was overturned by a major lawsuit (EPA Vs Corrosion Proof Fittings) by the Fifth Court of Appeals which said in its declaration that the EPA hasn’t proven asbestos ban as the ‘least burdensome alternative’ to its regulation.

The asbestos industry pointed out job losses and the stunted economic growth in its counter-attack to ABPR.

However, the US has stopped manufacturing asbestos since 2002 but its imports doubled in 2016 than in 2015. Chrysotile is the only form of asbestos that is imported to the US currently. There are six different types of asbestos fibers available. They are naturally found in rocks and soil as minerals.

The Trump administration made changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2017. The changes do not mandate the EPA to review the handling and disposal rules for the existing asbestos in the country. According to the new changes to TSCA, only the new annual asbestos imports need to be reviewed by the EPA.  In June 2016, former president Barack Obama signed a legislation that included asbestos in the top 10 substances to be reviewed by EPA.

Mesothelioma treatment costs

The treatment cost for mesothelioma cases varies significantly that no accurate cost estimates can be made. Due to the latest advancements in the medical field, a multimodal therapy, which is a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can be offered to patients.  The average cost for each of these therapies are as follows:

  • The average cost of lung cancer surgery is $39,891
  • Chemotherapy can cost nearly $30,000 over a period of eight weeks
  • Radiation therapy can cost $2000 per month

In the US, there are a number of options that are available for patients to get financial assistance.

The federal government offers help victims through social security disability programs. Most of the victims are veterans who developed cancer during their service in the military. The VA offers assistance to veterans who are mesothelioma or other related cancer patients.

Find a list of charities and research initiatives 

Mesothelioma lawsuits

If the defendant asbestos manufacturer had filed for bankruptcy the legal proceedings may take several months to years to get settled. 

Find a list of bankruptcy defendants.

  • Most of the mesothelioma patients receive out of the court settlements from the defendant. The sum received through the settlement is lesser when compared to that received through a trial.
  • The average sum received through trials is estimated to be $2.4 million whereas settlements pay the patients in the range of $1 million and $1.4 million.
  • Patients prefer to settle the case out of the court as there is no guarantee that the trial verdict will be always in their favor. Settlements can get them the money quicker than a trial.
  • Mesothelioma attorneys do not charge the patients or their relatives any cost upfront. A percentage of the claim will be their fees as per their agreement with their clients.

The health hazards due to asbestos exposure are proven without little doubt.  Regulatory measures and compensations are not good equivalents to the life lived. 

Despite a ban in place, there are countries in which asbestos is used widely. In the US, the influence of politicians and their personal interests and gains stand against the welfare of its citizens. 

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