For decades industries ranging from construction to automotive manufacturing relied on asbestos for its heat-resistant and soundproofing properties. Now a known health hazard, the U.S. began banning many uses of asbestos in the 1970s. The Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have since developed safety standards to minimize exposure, which may cause mesothelioma and other types of cancer. 

However, despite regulatory efforts, a 2017 report by the CDC found that mesothelioma deaths increased between 1999 and 2015. Current workers who perform maintenance or construction on older buildings may come in frequent contact with asbestos-based materials, and some industries still use asbestos in certain applications. Another troubling issue is the fact that malignant mesothelioma may not emerge until many years after the exposure occurred. 

Which occupations are most at risk? 

Between the 1940s and the 1960s, asbestos exposure was common in many industries. In addition to occupations involving mining, milling and manufacturing asbestos products, workers who frequently came in contact with the substance include shipbuilders, automotive workers, soybean farmers and insulation installers. Current workers involved in retrofitting or demolishing older buildings continue to risk exposure, as well, including carpenters, welders, electricians, drywall removers, pipefitters and firefighters. 

How long does mesothelioma take to emerge? 

According to the CDC, malignant mesothelioma typically develops between 20 to 40 years after exposure, but the cancer may remain latent for much longer. Unfortunately, diagnosis often does not occur until the disease has reached an advanced stage that makes it inoperable. Expensive and exhausting chemotherapy and radiation treatments are often necessary to control the spread of cancerous cells. 

What resources are available for workers who develop mesothelioma? 

Mesothelioma patients and their loved ones should know that they may be able to receive needed compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other costs if asbestos exposure caused the disease. While filing a civil lawsuit is one option, individuals may also be able to cover costs by filing a workers’ compensation claim against an existing company or, if the company no longer exists, a claim against a bankruptcy trust fund.