Asbestos exposure is the only confirmed cause of pleural mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they travel through the body to the pleura (lining of the lungs) where they cause irritation and permanent scarring of healthy mesothelial cells. After decades of cellular damage, cancerous cells begin to grow and divide, eventually forming mesothelioma tumors. Veterans and those who worked with asbestos-based products are most likely to develop mesothelioma.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral made up of microscopic but strong, heat-resistant fibers.
How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma may develop after someone inhales or swallows asbestos fibers.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
Asbestos fibers are sent into the air through mining, building renovations, automobile or ship maintenance, normal wear-and-tear of asbestos products, etc.
If inhaled, these fibers can travel through small air passages and get stuck in the lining of the lungs (pleura). The fibers may also reach the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) if swallowed.
Once inside the body, the fibers inflame and scar healthy tissue. Asbestos fibers are so small and strong that the body can never remove them or break them down.
4. Cancer Growth
Over 20-50 years, the fibers cause DNA damage to healthy cells, which leads to uncontrolled cell growth. Mesothelioma tumors form as cancerous cells grow at an out-of-control rate.
Asbestos Exposure Levels and Mesothelioma
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), higher levels of asbestos exposure increase your risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
However, the organization also warns that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Some people have even developed mesothelioma after only one instance of asbestos exposure, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).
Where Asbestos Exposure Occurs
Those who serve in the U.S. military or in industrial occupations like construction are at a higher risk of asbestos exposure. Some people can be also exposed to asbestos in their homes.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure
NORD reports that occupational asbestos exposure is the most common way people are exposed to asbestos.
Over 27 million people were exposed to asbestos at their jobs between 1940 and 1979, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry (ATSDR).
Worksites with highest asbestos exposure risk include:
- Automobile assembly plants
- Chemical plants
- Coal and asbestos mines
- Construction sites
- Mining sites
- Power plants
- Steel mills
While asbestos use was greatly restricted in the 1980s, it has not been completely banned, meaning some of these work sites still come with a risk of exposure today.
Military Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos was heavily used by the military to keep its ships, vehicles, and bases flame-resistant and durable. As a result, U.S. veterans with mesothelioma account for over 30% of all cases.
Navy veterans had the highest risk of exposure out of all military branches because they used more asbestos than any other branch.
Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Family members and loved ones may also be exposed to asbestos indirectly if a worker carried the fibers home on their clothes, skin, and hair. This is called secondhand asbestos exposure.
“There is some evidence that family members of workers heavily exposed to asbestos face an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.”
– National Cancer Institute
Mesothelioma Risk Factors
A risk factor is anything that affects a person’s chance of developing a disease or cancer. It is not clear why some people are more at risk for mesothelioma than others, but the following factors may be involved.
Factors that may increase the risk of mesothelioma include:
- History of asbestos exposure: If you worked around asbestos or lived with someone who did, you have a greater cancer risk. As previously mentioned, higher amounts of exposure may make it more likely that you’ll get sick.
- Family history of mesothelioma: If a relative developed this deadly cancer, you may also be at risk through secondhand exposure. You also may have inherited a genetic mutation.
- Genetic mutation: According to the NCI, a mutation in the BAP1 gene can increase the chances of developing mesothelioma tumors.
Mesothelioma Causes FAQ
Can smoking cause mesothelioma?
Smokers who were exposed to asbestos may have a higher risk of developing lung cancer. However, there does not appear to be a link between smoking and mesothelioma at this time.
Does everyone exposed to asbestos develop mesothelioma?
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people never develop mesothelioma even when exposed to asbestos. That said, there is always a risk of getting sick if you were exposed. Exposure can also lead to other asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis or lung cancer.
If you were exposed to asbestos, look for possible mesothelioma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and a chronic cough, and report them to your doctor.
Mesothelioma Causes: Next Steps
While asbestos is now known to cause mesothelioma, millions of people were exposed without knowing the risks. For decades, manufacturers of asbestos-containing products hid evidence of the mineral’s toxic effects from the public.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can seek financial compensation from these manufacturers today. This can help you cover costs of treatment and other expenses.
Get a free case review to see if you qualify for compensation.
Easier Than It May Seem
Your individual situation may merit an actual lawsuit. However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Trusts have been set up to benefit victims of mesothelioma in such a way that lawsuits and court appearances aren’t needed. Contact us today and you’ll see how easy it can be to get the compensation you deserve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can file a mesothelioma claim?
A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma – as well as their spouse, child, or family member – may be able to file a claim to recover compensation from manufacturers of asbestos products. If the mesothelioma patient passes away, a family member or estate representative may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How much money is in the asbestos trust fund?
An estimated $30 billion has been set aside in asbestos trust funds to compensate mesothelioma patients. Many companies that made asbestos products later filed for bankruptcy, so they created these trust funds to pay out future mesothelioma claims. If the company responsible for your asbestos exposure no longer exists, you may be entitled to money from their trust fund.
How do I file a mesothelioma claim?
To file a mesothelioma claim, contact an attorney who is experienced with these types of lawsuits. They will know where and when to file your claim, how to build the strongest case possible, and the best way to maximize compensation on your behalf.
What is the statute of limitations on mesothelioma claims?
The statute of limitations (deadline to file) for mesothelioma claims will vary depending on the state in which you file. In many states, it’s 2-3 years from the date of the mesothelioma diagnosis – though it may be longer if the mesothelioma patient has passed away. A mesothelioma lawyer can make sure your claim is filed within the required time frame.
How long do mesothelioma claims take?
Every mesothelioma claim is different, with circumstances and factors that are unique to that mesothelioma patient’s story. Though there’s no way to predict exactly how long a claim will take, an experienced mesothelioma attorney will ensure the process is handled as efficiently as possible.
Many claimants start to receive compensation in as few as 90 days after settling their mesothelioma claims.
What is the average payout for mesothelioma?
There is no guarantee of compensation when you file a mesothelioma claim, and countless factors affect how much money you might be able to recover (assuming your case settles). That said, 95% of these lawsuits are settled out of court, and the average settlement amount is $1-1.4 million.
How much is my mesothelioma claim worth?
Your mesothelioma case value depends on the specifics of your situation, such as the duration of your asbestos exposure, and the total cost of your mesothelioma treatment (as well as travel expenses and other related losses). The best way to figure out how much your claim is worth is to speak with a mesothelioma lawyer.
What type of mesothelioma claim do I have?
Most mesothelioma claims fall under one of four categories:
- Personal injury: You were exposed to asbestos (often through your job, or your loved one’s), so you file a lawsuit against the company that made the asbestos products.
- Asbestos trust fund: Similar to a personal injury claim, only the company in question went bankrupt, so you can’t sue them – but you may be able to access a trust fund they set aside for mesothelioma victims.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits: U.S. military veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service may qualify for related health care benefits through the VA.
- Wrongful death: When a mesothelioma patient passes away, their family member or estate representative may be able to file a lawsuit on their behalf, seeking money to pay for past medical expenses, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, etc.
A mesothelioma attorney can determine which type of claim makes the most sense for you and your family. (Some clients qualify for more than one.)