Louisiana one of the states most affected by asbestos exposure

In this day and age, it's unacceptable to think that some types of cancer that a loved one is suffering from could have been preventable. Nobody wants to go through the heartbreak of seeing the health of a family member or close friend decline, especially if the illness causes painful symptoms and affects his or her comfort on a daily basis. One of these illnesses is a type of cancer called mesothelioma, which can mimic other illnesses and be difficult to diagnose.

Unfortunately, Louisiana ranks 18th in the country for deaths related to asbestos and mesothelioma, says the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. There were 315 such deaths in our state between 1999 and 2005. This devastating cancer particularly affects Jefferson Parish, which is 19th in the U.S. for counties/parishes that have the highest death rate caused by mesothelioma.

What role does a building material have in a deadly cancer?

During the 20th century, builders often used the mineral asbestos for insulation and other purposes. This substance's serious health risks weren't fully known until the last few decades, and the use of asbestos in building materials sharply declined after the 1970s. However, stopping asbestos exposure and use wasn't necessarily enough to prevent many people from contracting the disease, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; mesothelioma's latency period from the first exposure to asbestos to developing the cancer can be up to 40 years. Even a person who hasn't worked with asbestos for many years may still become ill.

The CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry names asbestos as the main cause of occupational cancer in the U.S., with a large amount of construction workers and other workers who were frequently exposed to the mineral at risk of developing the illness. The agency estimates that asbestos-related fatalities may reach 200,000 by the year 2030. Two main types of mesothelioma affect the abdomen or lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic. The symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain under or near the ribcage.
  • Abdominal swelling and pain.
  • Shortness of breath and painful coughing.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Tissue lumps underneath the skin on the abdomen or chest.

These symptoms can often be misdiagnosed as another illness before being correctly identified as mesothelioma. Despite modern precautions to reduce the amount of asbestos construction workers are exposed to, millions may still be at risk: Many of the buildings that originally contained or still contain asbestos may be renovated or demolished someday, increasing the risk of exposure. Construction companies today attempt to reduce this risk as much as possible, but nothing is 100 percent safe.

Getting help from an attorney

In the coming years, it's likely that more Jefferson Parish residents will be diagnosed with this serious cancer. If you or your family has been affected by asbestos exposure, contact a personal injury attorney with experience in mesothelioma cases.