Asbestos is a material found in nature, a mineral that was once prized for its strength and its ability to retard fire, and its sound absorption qualities. All of these characteristics made it a very desirable material for use in manufacturing from the 19th century on, and it was used extensively in applications ranging from ship building to paper mills, from textile manufacturers to steel plants. When it was discovered that the product caused serious health problems, manufacturers who utilized asbestos in their products and process did not stop using it, and in fact tried to hide any information about the material’s toxicity. This put millions of people at risk, with the most prevalent health effect taking shape in the form of Mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that has a direct impact on the cells and tissues that form the membranes that surround the lungs and the heart. It is directly linked to exposure to asbestos. It is a cancer that only appears decades after exposure to asbestos, sometimes taking as long as thirty to forty years. This has been one of the most troublesome aspects of asbestos litigation; manufacturers and companies have denied their liability, and companies that employed asbestos workers or who used asbestos in materials may be long out of business or bankrupt.
With asbestos having been used in so many industries, as well as used as a building material in so many workplaces and homes, the number of people who were exposed to enough asbestos to cause health problems is very high, and because it takes so long for symptoms to appear there is no telling how many cases of mesothelioma, or other asbestos-related health problems, there will be. Litigation against asbestos companies by mesothelioma attorneys and lawyers specializing in asbestos litigation represents the longest and most expensive mass tort in the history of the United States. There are almost ten thousand companies that are defendants in asbestos cases, and over a million plaintiffs already, and that number is likely to grow as more cases come to light. Because asbestos was used in so many products as late as the 1980s, it is still prevalent in buildings that are being used and inhabited today. An extreme example of how much more exposure lies ahead was seen on 9/11; when the World Trade Center Towers fell, a cloud of asbestos that had been used in the construction of the buildings blanketed lower Manhattan, creating an entirely new health risk that will take years to be fully understood.