When people hear the word “asbestos,” they often think of shipyards or insulation on boilers and steam pipes. However, asbestos was unfortunately used in hundreds of products and ways that many people find surprising. One such less-well-known application was in laboratory equipment. Exposure to asbestos from any source is a known cause of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, as well other diseases and cancers.
Levy Konigsberg LLP, a New York City-based law firm that has specialized in representing victims of mesothelioma for more than twenty-five years, currently represents the family of a victim of mesothelioma exposed to asbestos while working with asbestos-containing scientific and safety equipment in laboratories.
The asbestos was used primarily to insulate the equipment or to protect the lab workers and technicians from the high heat involved in their work. Some of this equipment included personal safety products made primarily from asbestos cloth or fibers, such as gloves, hoods and aprons. Others included asbestos pads, mats, and screens, used as rests for hot items. Still other pieces of equipment were insulated or coated with asbestos, such as furnaces and fume hoods. As the years went on, the asbestos contained in this equipment began to deteriorate, gradually shedding dangerous asbestos dust and fibers, which he breathed in.
As neither his employer nor any of the manufacturers or distributors of the asbestos-containing laboratory equipment provided him or any of his fellow workers with any warnings about the dangers of asbestos, they had no opportunity to protect themselves from being exposed to the highly hazardous carcinogen. Worse still, the asbestos dusts and fibers would be on their work clothes and brought home to their families and children at the end of each day, where their loved ones were also potentially exposed to the asbestos.
If you or a loved one have developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, it is important to consider laboratory equipment as a potential culprit, especially if the sufferer or any members of their family ever worked in laboratory or scientific setting. If you suspect that an asbestos-related disease may have been caused by exposure to asbestos from laboratory, consider the following questions:
- Why would asbestos have been used in a laboratory? As with many asbestos-containing products, laboratory and scientific equipment were often made from, insulated, or impregnated with asbestos due to its heat-resistant properties. If heat was involved, there’s a good chance that asbestos was as well.
- What kinds of laboratory items contained asbestos?Any items that were either exposed to high heat themselves, or allowed a laboratory worker to handle a heated object, may have contained or been made from asbestos. This includes:
- Safety equipment such as gloves, hoods, aprons, jackets, boots or other footwear;
- Objects that would come into contact with heated items – like heated beakers or trays – such as asbestos mats, pads, and wire-mesh screens (often with asbestos centers), countertops or tabletops, and hoods on ovens and furnaces;
- Objects that generate their own heat, such as furnaces or ovens;
- Electric wire and cable which often had asbestos insulation.
- What did the asbestos-containing equipment look like? Asbestos used in commercial applications typically has a white, off-white, or greyish color. Asbestos clothing would have been woven from asbestos cloth; insulation on or inside objects would appear fibrous. Most of the asbestos products would deteriorate and shed dust if disturbed.
- How would someone typically be exposed to asbestos from the laboratory products and equipment? Given their purposes, asbestos equipment would be routinely handled physically. The constant contact and use would lead to gradual deterioration and the release of fibers and dust. Worse, virtually all of the asbestos fibers and dusts are too small to be seen with the naked eye. The fibers and dusts and colorless, odorless, tasteless and, due to their small size, typically do not cause any immediate physical reaction (such as coughing). Oftentimes, people exposed to asbestos fibers and dusts are not even aware of it until years later when they develop an asbestos-related disease.
- Who made and distributed asbestos-containing laboratory equipment? Depending on the type of products or equipment (safety products vs. laboratory devices), dozens upon dozens of companies manufactured asbestos products found in labs. Often times lab workers were more familiar with the products’ distributors, particularly if they ordered the items out of catalog. Among the more common distributors were Fisher Scientific and Arthur Thomas Scientific.
- Would asbestos be used in any other way in a lab? Aside from asbestos used on equipment, often times raw fibers asbestos were used in scientific experiments.
Workers at factories and in technical and industrial settings were heavily exposed to asbestos that was in the products and materials they worked with through at least the early 1980s. As a result, not only did these workers develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, but in many cases their wives and children did as well by virtue of being exposed to the asbestos dust that was on their spouses’ and parents’ clothing when they came home from work.
Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer that occurs most commonly in the pleura or peritoneum that line the lungs and abdominal cavities, respectively. The disease occurs after a “latency period” of many decades which explains why many people exposed to asbestos are diagnosed with mesothelioma many decades after the exposure itself occurs.
Under the law of most states, pain and suffering from mesothelioma may be compensated through the award of money damages, usually obtained with the help of experienced mesothelioma attorneys. In some states other types of damages may also be recovered.
Asbestos litigation affords mesothelioma victims the opportunity to receive financial compensation and hold accountable the companies that caused their asbestos exposure.
- Preserve your rights to bring a legal action against the responsible parties within the limited time frame allowed by law, known as statute of limitations;
- Obtain maximum compensation in your case by being able to:
- Preserve evidence and establish facts of the asbestos exposure while the claimant is still alive and able to provide information;
- File and resolve a lawsuit against the responsible parties before they file for bankruptcy or, if they already have, to obtain compensation before their bankruptcy trust funds run out of money;
- Expedite your case, as courts tend to give higher priority to mesothelioma lawsuits where the claimant is still alive.