Maine has a long history of thriving shipbuilding and paper industries. These two industries are known for the industrial use of asbestos, which is associated with a high rate of health problems such as mesothelioma. In the two decades between 1980-2000 there were 387 fatalities from asbestos poisoning, from both asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that arises in the mesothelium, a layer of tissue that is found inside human bodies, covering internal organs. It is aggressive and it is deadly. Work-related or occupational exposure to asbestos puts workers at high risk for mesothelioma.
How does exposure to asbestos trigger cancer? Asbestos occurs naturally and microscopic fibers of it can become lodged in the mesothelium, often the mesothelium covering the lungs. Over time these fibers can result in the development of cancerous tumors. Exactly how this process occurs is still being researched. One theory is that the asbestos fibers cause cells in the mesothelium to become irritated. This leads to cellular damage giving rise to cancer. Another theory is that the fibers enter the mesothelial cells. This disrupts the ordinary cellular division and causes genetic changes leading to cancer. Still another theory is that free radicals are produced by asbestos exposure. Free radicals are molecules that damage DNA and trigger mutation in otherwise healthy cells.
These different theories generally agree that asbestos damages the cells, disrupting their natural cycles. Cells divide and grow uncontrollably as a result and become tumors that trigger mesothelioma. A 2010 study found that asbestos damages cells through “programmed cell necrosis.” A “high-mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1) causes chronic inflammation, which causes the growth of tumors.
There are different kinds of mesothelioma. For example, the kind of mesothelioma that affects the tissue around the lungs is pleural malignant mesothelioma. There are also kinds that affect the tissues in the abdomen, around the heart, and around the testicles. There are treatments that may work, but due to the severity of this illness by the time it is detected, for many people there is no cure.
What are the warning signs and symptoms of mesothelioma? Signs of pleural malignant mesothelioma are chest pain under the ribs, lumps of tissue under the skin on the chest, painful coughs, shortness of breath and unexplained weight loss. Signs of peritoneal mesothelioma affecting the abdomen includes abdominal pain and swelling, lumps of tissue in the abdomen and unexplained weight loss. The other types of mesothelioma are so rare the signs are ambiguous.
Although most of the asbestos exposure in shipbuilding took place before the 21st century, there is a long latency period from the time of workplace exposure to clear signs and symptoms. There are now many regulations regarding the handling of asbestos, but this does not help those exposed to asbestos before these regulations went into effect.
Asbestos has been listed as a contaminant at air stations and naval shipyard in Maine, as well as various buildings and manufacturing plants that date back to the early 1900s. When buildings with asbestos are demolished or burned, asbestos is released into the air. If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos fibers you should ask your doctor to perform an x-ray. Even low-level exposure to asbestos has the potential to cause mesothelioma in the future.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.
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Child Safety in Maine: Graco Recall of Car Seats, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 18, 2014
Attitudes about Speeding in Maine and Elsewhere, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 11, 2014