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 plastics. Exposure to asbestos from any source is a known cause of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, as well other diseases and cancers.
If you or a loved one have developed a disease related to asbestos exposure, it is important to consider plastics as a potential culprit, especially if the patient or any members of their family ever worked in the plastics industry. If you suspect that an asbestos-related disease may have been caused by exposure to asbestos from plastics, consider the following questions:
- What kinds of plastics contained asbestos? Often, “molding compounds” contained asbestos both as an ingredient in the raw plastic itself, and on the surface of the plastic. These compounds were in turn milled or ground and then molded to form finished products.
- What kinds of production processes used these plastics? Both Compression and Injection molding processes could be used when dealing with asbestos-containing plastics.
- What did the asbestos-containing plastics look like? The molding compound plastics typically had an appearance similar to kitty litter pellets, may have had a powdery coating, and were often packaged in large bags or barrels. While asbestos-containing plastics could come in almost any color (red, blue, green, yellow, etc.) the most common colors were black, white and tan.
- What kinds of finished products were made from asbestos-containing plastics? Most often, the asbestos was added to plastics that would ultimately be used in high-heat applications. These included plastics used in the automotive industry, high-performance plastics for the aerospace industry, electric and electro-mechanical parts and applications (e.g., switches, circuit breakers, arc chutes), and heavy appliances. However, since many finished plastic products were components of larger machines or equipment, it is quite possible that any plastic manufacturer may have used asbestos-containing plastics at one time or another.
- How would someone typically be exposed to asbestos from the plastics? The asbestos in the plastics could be released during almost any part of the production process: when the raw plastic was being poured or scooped into hoppers or bins; when the plastic was being ground up or milled; or when the packages of asbestos-containing plastics (bags, bins, barrels, etc.) were being delivered to the factory, stored in a warehouse, or being moved from storage to production. In addition, since many of the production facilities where asbestos-containing plastics were used were large, open factories (similar to a supermarket), the released asbestos dust and fibers would circulate in the air and potentially expose anyone in the building, even if they didn’t work directly with the plastic.
- Who made asbestos-containing plastics? A list of companies and manufactured and distributed asbestos-containing plastics reads like a “Who’s Who” of multinational chemical companies. Manufacturers and distributors included Union Carbide, Du Pont, Durez, Occidental Petroleum, Shell, General Electric, ConocoPhillips, and dozens of others.
Workers at factories and industrial sites 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, which is known as take-home asbestos exposure.
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.