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Thousands of workers in West Virginia have been injured by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was widely used for its heat retention capabilities. From the 1950’s through the 1980’s asbestos was used in a variety of products to which West Virginia workers would have been exposed. Asbestos was used in pipe, block spray-on insulation, gaskets, rope, mud, pump and valve packing, clutches, brakes, molds, protective clothing, joint compound and many other components. Asbestos fibers were released from these products and may have been inhaled by those working in the vicinity. Mesothelioma and lung cancer develop as a result of the asbestos fibers being inhaled by the victim.
Mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure) and lung cancer develop over the course of many years. This is considered a “latency period” wherein the fibers can eventually evolve into a cancer. This is why many West Virginia workers, and their family members, are just now developing cancer after being exposed 30 to 50 years earlier.
West Virginia workers and families are particularly at risk due to prevalent industries during these years. West Virginia had many steel mills, chemical plants and power houses. All of these facilities contained numerous asbestos products that exposed the construction workers, outside contractors, plant workers and family members. It is not only the worker who has a risk for mesothelioma or lung cancer, the worker’s family is also at risk. Asbestos fibers were carried home on clothing and exposed spouses and children to the risk of developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.
In addition to those working in plants, mechanics working with brakes or clutches and carpenters using drywall or roofing shingles were also exposed to asbestos. And because of these exposures, even people who did home auto repair or home remodeling have an increased risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer resulting from this asbestos exposure. West Virginians are at risk. Years ago the US Surgeon General recognized that smoking and asbestos work in combination to increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
What makes this situation worse is that the manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos products failed to warn West Virginia workers and their families of the risk that asbestos exposure could lead to mesothelioma and lung cancer. Despite knowing of the link for many years, West Virginia men and women were allowed to, in fact forced to, work around asbestos. As a result, many West Virginia workers have developed cancer.
The Court has recognized the harm caused to thousands of West Virginia workers and has established a case management order that allows mesothelioma and lung cancer victims to pursue claims against the manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos products to which he or she was exposed. This system allows for any exposed family member to file a claim as well. Over the years, hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos products have been identified at the various industrial and commercial sites all over the state of West Virginia. Individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer have legal rights to recover for themselves and their families.