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What workers need to know about mesothelioma

Many New Jersey workers are at risk for developing mesothelioma, a malignant form of cancer for which there is no cure. As FindLaw explains, mesothelioma is caused by the asbestos fibers that a worker inhales or ingests building up in the linings of his or her lungs, heart and/or abdomen.

Unlike other types of cancer, mesothelioma cannot be reversed by surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. It can only be managed through such things as pain management and breathing assistive devices and therapies.

Those most at risk

Any worker who comes into contact with asbestos is at risk for developing mesothelioma. However, workers most at risk include the following:

  • Construction workers
  • Shipbuilders
  • Pipefitters and welders
  • Stonemasons and bricklayers
  • Miners
  • Auto mechanics, particularly those who do brake repair work

Despite the protections afforded to workers by OSHA and the EPA, asbestos is an insidious material that breaks down differently than other minerals as it ages or is disturbed. Rather than simply turning to dust, it degenerates into microscopic fibers that disperse into the air at the slightest wind. Most protective masks are inadequate to prevent workers from inhaling these fibers. In addition, they fall on the food, cups, utensils, cigarettes, cigars and pipes that workers put into their mouths. They also fall on workers’ clothing and shoes, where they are taken home and released into the air inhaled by the worker’s family.

Mesothelioma claims and the statute of limitations

Mesothelioma symptoms usually take 20-40 years to appear. Consequently, the statutes of limitations that normally apply to workers’ compensation claims and product liability lawsuits are extended for mesothelioma sufferers. For them, the statute of limitations begins running as of the date of their diagnosis rather than the date of their original asbestos exposure.