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Factory Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Factory workers with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses often performed repetitive tasks while working long hours in small, poorly ventilated spaces. Most factory workers faced asbestos exposure through machine components and building materials. Factory workers also worked directly with asbestos in some industries.

A study of more than 5,000 East London factory workers employed from 1933 to 1980 revealed a significant occurrence of cancer. While 222 cancer deaths would have been consistent with the general population, researchers observed 537 cancer deaths in the factory workers, including the following:

  • Lung cancer deaths: 232, with 77 expected 
  • Pleural mesothelioma: 52
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: 48 

These deaths were positively correlated to asbestos exposure. Researchers also found a potential correlation between an excess occurrence of colon cancer and asbestos. 

The companies that owned these factories knew about the hazards of asbestos exposure for at least half a century before the general public became aware of its dangers.

By this time, scores of factory workers had been exposed to significant levels of asbestos on a daily basis for decades. As a result, many of these workers developed and died from asbestos-related illnesses.

Factory workers continue to face new diagnoses of these conditions caused by exposures 20 or more years ago, and some are currently exposed to asbestos. The Lanier Law Firm helps these factory workers pursue damages and hold these companies accountable.

Factory Occupations with a History of Asbestos Exposure

Factory workers that may have been exposed to asbestos on the job include the following:

  • Assemblers
  • Machine operators
  • Inspectors
  • Production supervisors
  • Millwrights 
  • Custodial staff

Factories with the Highest Asbestos Exposure

From the 1900s until at least 1980, virtually every factory used equipment or facilities that contained asbestos. Factory workers with the highest risks are those that worked directly with asbestos in the following types of factories: 

  • Textile mills 
  • Paper mills
  • Cement factories
  • Rubber factories
  • Automotive parts factories
  • Steel mills
  • Factories that produced drywall and related compounds
  • Factories that produced paint and other coatings

The use of asbestos began to decline in the early 1970s after its dangers became widely known to the public. While this mitigated the risk of working with asbestos directly, it was not enough to completely eliminate it.

Asbestos is still used in manufacturing processes for the chlor-alkali industry, and factory workers can be exposed to asbestos even if they do not work with it directly.

How are factory workers exposed to asbestos?

Factory workers are exposed to asbestos when they inhale the microscopic fibers that have been disturbed and released into the air. Even after industries stopped using asbestos, components of factory machinery and facilities were rife with the toxic material. 

Industrial factory machines manufactured before 1980 contained asbestos in insulation materials and wearable components, such as gaskets, seals, and conveyor belts. As these components degraded from repeated use, asbestos was released.

A large number of factories continue to use old machines, which expose today’s workers to asbestos on a daily basis. In older facilities, factory workers may also be exposed to asbestos as building components are repaired or become worn. These components include the following:

  • Floor tiles
  • Building insulation
  • Plumbing pipes and valves
  • Pipe fittings
  • Electrical wire insulation
  • Fireproofing insulation
  • Boilers

Spray-on insulation is especially hazardous because it is friable. Friable asbestos is not encased in any material and can be easily crumbled by hand, which results in airborne fibers that can be inhaled. Sprayed asbestos was used in the following factory applications:

  • Fire protection
  • Condensation control
  • Soundproofing

Sprayed asbestos may be found on boilers, boiler room slabs, structural steel, walls, and ceilings.

Workers who repaired or maintained machines in factories were exposed to asbestos when their duties required them to grind, drill, cut, or remove machine components that contained asbestos, including electrical wiring, gaskets, valves, and flanges. Asbestos may also be present in coatings, insulation, and adhesives.

Companies That Have Exposed Factory Workers to Asbestos

The companies that own the factories are generally liable for asbestos exposure. Companies that supply the factories with asbestos-containing materials may also be liable. The following companies owned factories or supplied asbestos products to them:

  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Albany International Corp.
  • Alco, Inc.
  • Arkema, Inc.
  • Brandon Drying Fabrics, Inc.
  • Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.
  • CNA Holdings, Inc.
  • Caterpillar, Inc.
  • Chevron, USA, Inc.
  • E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Company
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Garlock Sealing Technologies

Asbestos Exposure Health Effects

Factory workers exposed to asbestos may develop mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos lung cancer later in life. Workers may not develop these conditions until decades after their exposure. 

Asbestosis is a painful non-cancerous condition characterized by scarring of the lungs. Mesothelioma is cancer of the lining surrounding internal organs. 

The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is cancer of the pleura, which is the lining surrounding the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 80 percent of mesothelioma cases and often presents with shortness of breath, chest pain, and severe coughing. 

Peritoneal mesothelioma is cancer of the peritoneum — the lining around the stomach. This type of mesothelioma accounts for 10 percent to 15 percent of mesothelioma cases and is characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Pericardial mesothelioma is cancer of the lining surrounding the heart, called the pericardium, and is extremely rare. Symptoms include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath. 

Testicular mesothelioma is cancer of the tunica vaginalis, the lining surrounding the testicles. This is the rarest form of mesothelioma and accounts for less than one percent of cases.

Mesothelioma symptoms may be non-specific, such as fatigue, fever, and body aches. These symptoms often mimic more common, less serious conditions, resulting in a delayed diagnosis. The average life expectancy for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is one year.

Mesothelioma Claims

Factory workers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness may be entitled to file multiple asbestos exposure claims for compensation.

Compensation for mesothelioma may cover medical expenses, lost income, pain, and suffering. The types of claims you can file will depend on the circumstances surrounding your exposure.

Workers’ Compensation Claims for Asbestos Exposure

Workers’ compensation provides free medical care for asbestos-related illnesses connected to asbestos exposure that occurred on the job.

If you are still working at the time of your diagnosis, workers’ compensation also provides partial wage replacement. The amount varies by state, but it is commonly two-thirds of your average wages over the last year.

Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits

If you don’t qualify for workers’ compensation, you may be eligible to file an asbestos exposure lawsuit against your employer.

For example, independent contractors generally qualify to file lawsuits against employers. Employees and independent contractors may qualify to file lawsuits against the companies that provided asbestos to their employers.

Damages that may be available in an asbestos exposure lawsuit include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages are compensation for verifiable monetary losses that stem from the illness, such as medical expenses and lost wages. These amounts can include projected future expenses and income.

In the event of death, the immediate family may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit and pursue lost income of the deceased, medical expenses of the deceased, and burial expenses.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are compensation for subjective losses related to quality of life and include the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of society
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

In a wrongful death lawsuit, non-economic damages to the family may include the following, which vary by jurisdiction:

  • Pain and suffering of the deceased
  • Pain and suffering of the family
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of parental guidance
  • Loss of comfort

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are awarded for the purpose of punishing the defendant when the conduct was especially egregious. Asbestos companies actively engaged in concealment activities for nearly half a century. As a result, punitive damages may apply in most jurisdictions.

Asbestos Trust Fund Claims

Companies that file for bankruptcy cannot be sued for liabilities that occurred prior to the bankruptcy. Numerous companies filed for bankruptcy after asbestos exposure victims began suing in large numbers during the 1980s. 

Section 524(g) of the federal bankruptcy code requires bankrupt companies with asbestos liabilities to establish asbestos trust funds. Asbestos trust funds pay economic and non-economic damages to qualified individuals who have developed asbestos-related illnesses or to their families in the event of death. 

Each fund has established its own guidelines for determining the compensation claimants receive for their diagnoses. There is approximately $30 billion set aside in these funds. Our mesothelioma attorneys can help you file one or more trust fund claims for your asbestos exposure.

When should I contact a mesothelioma lawyer?

You should contact a mesothelioma lawyer as soon as possible after you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. Every state sets a separate deadline, known as the statute of limitations, for civil lawsuits. In most states, this is one to three years after diagnosis.

Trust fund claims typically adhere to the statute of limitations for lawsuits, and workers’ compensation claims have separate guidelines. In some states, workers’ compensation claims must be filed within 30 days of your diagnosis.

Contacting an experienced mesothelioma attorney as early as possible will ensure your claims are filed on time.

Why should I choose The Lanier Law Firm to handle my factory asbestos exposure case?

You will need an experienced attorney with special knowledge of asbestos litigation. In addition to knowing how and when to file a claim, an asbestos attorney must have in-depth knowledge of the asbestos industry and your potential sources of exposure. 

The Lanier Law Firm is one of the world’s most experienced mesothelioma law firms, handling asbestos litigation for more than 30 years and developing an extensive database of asbestos products and companies. 

We have performed numerous private investigations that have allowed us to access incriminating public documents, private documents, and internal communications between important asbestos industry executives. 

We have also cultivated a strong network of asbestos professionals and medical experts who can help us prepare cases that can withstand a jury trial when necessary. Other law firms often call upon us to provide training and insight to attorneys involved in asbestos litigation.

Most importantly, we consistently achieve remarkable results for our clients, such as the following:

  • $2.257 million verdict on behalf of an Illinois laborer
  • $2.256 million settlement for the family of a deceased papermill worker
  • $1.899 million verdict for a Texas woman who ingested asbestos through the work clothes of her father and husband
  • $1.832 million for a Texas oil and gas worker

If you have developed an asbestos-related illness while working in a factory, you may be entitled to significant compensation, but time is limited. Contact The Lanier Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.

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