Study Assesses Lung Cancer, Mesothelioma Risk in Shipyard Workers

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
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Researchers Examine Mortality Associated with Asbestos, Other Materials

A recent study published in the journal Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health assessed the mortality risks associated with five chemicals in shipyard workers. Researchers looked at exposure to asbestos, solvents, lead, oil and greases, and wood dust. Findings showed that all substances were independently linked to an increased risk of death from mesothelioma, cancer of the respiratory system and lung cancer. Previous findings showed that shipyard workers had an increased risk of death from all causes, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, varying with occupational exposure.

The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits involving occupational and environmental hazards, including asbestos mesothelioma cases. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations.

Researchers analyzed data from Baltimore shipyard workers between 1950 and 1964. Data from 4,758 civilian workers were included in the analysis. These individuals were exposed to various materials during their occupation. The authors sought to determine whether exposure to any of the five chemicals was associated with an increased risk of death.

“We found all five substances to be independently associated with mortality from mesothelioma, cancer of the respiratory system, and lung cancer,” the authors wrote. “Findings from efforts to evaluate solvents, lead, oils/greases, and wood dust in isolation of asbestos suggested that the excesses from these other exposures may be due to residual confounding from asbestos exposure.”

According to the authors, exposure to asbestos likely accounts for high rates of death among these workers, a finding noted previously. “This study extends the results of our previous report which found excess mortality from all causes of death, respiratory cancers, lung cancer, mesothelioma and emphysema associated with shipyard employment,” researchers wrote in their discussion. “These excesses were likely due, at least in part, to asbestos, which was a common exposure in shipyards during the 1950s and 1960s.”

Another study, published in The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, found that global rates of mesothelioma are increasing, particularly in women. The authors cited environmental exposure to asbestos, stating, “Studying environmental risk of mesothelioma is challenging because of the long latency period and small numbers, and because this type of exposure is involuntary and unknown.”

Asbestos Mesothelioma Lawsuit Background

Mesothelioma is rare and aggressive form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure; it affects the membrane lining most of the organs. According to the American Lung Association, 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma often have a poor prognosis. Symptoms include trouble breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, nausea or vomiting, weight loss and anemia (especially in women).

Asbestos fibers are dangerous when inhaled. The most commonly used form of asbestos is chrysotile. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all forms of asbestos fiber are hazardous. The material is often found in insulation for pipes, floor tiles, building materials and in vehicle breaks and clutches. Certain industries have greater occupational exposure to asbestos, including construction and ship repair.

The microscopic fibers are inhaled and cause scar-like tissue to develop in the lungs. This leads to a condition known as asbestosis, which impedes lung function and eventually leads to death.
Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

A number of asbestos mesothelioma lawsuits have been filed. In 2014, for example, a jury awarded $7.7 million to the family of a man who died of mesothelioma. Another asbestos lawsuit resulted in an $80 million settlement. The class action lawsuit was filed against Jackson County and Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering. Plaintiffs allege that they were negligently exposed to asbestos during an asbestos removal project conducted during the 1980s. The lawsuit alleges that few safety measures were implemented to protect the plaintiffs against inhaling the toxic fibers.

“The particles would be … all over the papers,” a plaintiff said during a 2014 hearing. “The dust from their boots and their work shoes was on the stairway and in the hallways.”

The plaintiffs allege that these actions caused them to inhale asbestos and subsequently develop mesothelioma.

Legal Help for Asbestos Mesothelioma Victims

If you or someone you know developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).