Mesothelioma is an aggressive, rare type of cancer, often triggered by materials found in the workplace, which gets its start in the thin layer of tissue (the “mesothelium”) that surrounds internal organs. Types of mesothelioma include pleural (lung) malignant mesothelioma and peritoneal (intestinal) mesothelioma. Although treatment is available, for many people there is no cure and mesothelioma frequently results in death. In 2009, the US Centers for Disease Control discovered that Maine had one of the highest per capita incidence of mesothelioma of any state. In fact, Maine had more than twice the average rate of malignant mesothelioma cases (27.5%) than in other states.
Why does Maine have such high rates of malignant mesothelioma? Many older Mainers unwittingly contracted mesothelioma from their workplace as young adults because they worked in an industry that used asbestos, a dangerous mineral. Asbestos was used in the 1800s to prevent corrosion and the impact of high temperatures on many types of building materials. People did not realize it was a dangerous product until the mid-1900s.
Maine’s history of shipbuilding is associated with asbestos products, which were commonly used in this industry to construct and repair navy and commercial ships and submarines. Other industries once common to Maine have also used asbestos products, in the form of asbestos insulation. Some of the workplaces that used asbestos include paper and wool mills. The risk of asbestos exposure also exists when demolishing older buildings, and construction workers on those projects must take special precautions against exposure. There have even been cases of mesothelioma contracted by a person in the household of a worker exposed to asbestos. Asbestos clings to clothes and can be inhaled by members of a household who interact regularly with someone who brings it home with him or her.
Asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma can develop 2-4 decades after the initial exposure. It is believed that because asbestos exposure was still common a few decades ago, the incidence of mesothelioma continued to rise for years before peaking in 2010 and now is in decline.
If you were exposed to asbestos, what signs should you be looking for to try and catch mesothelioma as early as possible? The symptoms vary depending on the types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is most associated with the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers are very sharp and can get trapped in the lungs, irritating and inflaming them. The inflammation triggers the lining to thicken and build up, and it is this buildup that prevents the lung from fully expanding. Symptoms to look out for include lung fluid buildup, chest discomfort, dry cough, weight loss and breathing that is painful.
The Maine Revised Statutes has several asbestos laws and regulations, and workplaces in Maine are expected to follow OSHA regulations about safely working with asbestos. If you develop mesothelioma, you may be able to file an asbestos-related lawsuit for your injuries. Maine has a generous six-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. This means you must file within six years of your diagnosis (or when you reasonably should have known about your mesothelioma). Wrongful death lawsuits have a shorter statute of limitations of two years from the victim’s death.
If you have been hurt or a loved one has been killed because of mesothelioma, you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to aid in recovering 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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