What are asbestos diseases and what causes them?

Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. It occurs when malignant cells develop in the lining of the chest cavity, abdominal cavity, or the cavity around the heart. Mesothelial cells cover the outer surface of most of the body’s internal organs. The tissue formed by these cells is called mesothelium. The mesothelium acts as a protective layer for the organs by producing a special lubricating fluid that allows organs to shift. This fluid is especially crucial to the lungs, as it allows the lungs to expand and contract inside the chest cavity. The mesothelium of the chest is called the pleura and the mesothelium of the abdomen is called the peritoneum. The mesothelium that lines the heart is called the pericardium.

What is asbestos and why is it used in products

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with long, thin fibrous crystals derived from metamorphic rocks. Asbestos fibers are soft and pliable to the touch and capable of withstanding very high temperatures. They are also very strong and can make products more durable. When left intact and undisturbed, asbestos fibers pose no health risk.

Where is it commonly found?

Asbestos can be found in products such as joint compound (mud), gaskets, auto brakes, rope, plaster, and insulation. Anyone who has worked with or around products containing asbestos is at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer.

Prolonged exposure to raw asbestos or to materials containing asbestos can lead to terminal illness. However, many individuals have been diagnosed with mesothelioma years after a brief but intense exposure to asbestos—for example, during a summer job. There are also many documented cases of mesothelioma resulting from second-hand exposure to asbestos carried home on a worker’s clothing. Wives who regularly launder their husband’s clothes and children who encounter dust on a family member’s clothing are at heightened risk.

How do I know if asbestos caused my disease?

Duration and intensity of exposure are two important factors in the development of asbestos-related diseases.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, please contact us immediately regarding your legal rights. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering experienced by you or your family due to the negligence of the asbestos industry.

There is a latency period ranging from 15 to 50 years between initial exposure to asbestos and the development of this deadly disease. For many who worked in shipyards, power plants, and other industries that used asbestos in their manufacturing process in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, symptoms of this disease are just beginning to surface now.

As early as the 1920s, the asbestos industry and most corporations that manufactured products containing asbestos were aware of serious health risks associated with inhaling asbestos fibers. Since asbestos was inexpensive to mine and easy to transport, with useful chemical and physical properties, it was widely used in manufacturing processes and in a variety of products. Most corporations considered only their bottom line, and did not explore alternatives to using asbestos. As a result, many people were exposed to this potentially harmful mineral.

The attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford devote a significant amount of time and care to representing these people. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we’d like to help you get compensation for medical bills and years of lost income so you can provide for your family. We urge you to contact us today regarding your legal rights.


Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is almost always caused by previous exposure to asbestos. There is a latency period of approximately fifteen to fifty years between initial exposure to asbestos and the development of this deadly disease.

Failure to Warn

In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. manufacturing industry began to develop more and more uses for hard plastic parts. A number of companies, including Union Carbide, the developer of Bakelite; General Electric; Plastics Engineering Corporation (PLENCO); Rogers Corporation; and the Durez (for “durable resins”) Division of Occidental were beginning to produce massive quantities of plastic molding compounds for use in manufacturing everything from hard plastic telephone casings to frying pan handles to circuit boards and distributor caps. A large percentage of the plastic molding compounds made by Union Carbide and these other companies were reinforced with raw asbestos fiber derived from asbestos mines in Canada, Russia, South Africa, and elsewhere. These mining companies already had several generations of workers who had developed cancer and asbestosis as a result of exposure to asbestos.

In the late 1950s, researchers from England began an intensive study of lung disease among South African asbestos miners, who were mostly employees of companies owned by wealthy English conglomerates. Led by Dr. Christopher Wagner, the researchers determined that not only were the miners themselves developing malignant mesothelioma; so were their family members and even some of their neighbors. Dr. Wagner published an article in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine in 1960 documenting dozens of cases of malignant mesothelioma arising from asbestos exposure in and around the mines of South Africa’s Northwest Cape Province. The case studies documented by Dr. Wagner included a housewife, a social worker, and an accountant. Similar studies conducted by researchers in the Canadian mines of Quebec also uncovered higher-than-average incidences of mesothelioma and lung cancer. By the early 1960s, it had become impossible to deny that exposure to asbestos could result in serious disease and death.

Beginning in 1958, Johns Manville Corporation, a major manufacturer of asbestos-containing products and the largest miner of asbestos fiber in the world, sold asbestos fibers to Rogers Corporation, a manufacturer of plastic molding compound. In or before 1969, Johns Manville began to place warnings on the bags of asbestos fibers it sold to Rogers. In 1971, Johns Manville addressed a letter to a buyer at Rogers explaining the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new requirements regarding airborne asbestos fiber exposure.

Johns Manville amended its warning label in 1972, but it was not until 1977—eight years after Johns Manville first began including warning labels on its bags of asbestos fiber—that Rogers placed any warnings at all on its asbestos-reinforced plastic molding compound, which was sold widely in the United States. These warnings failed to mention that asbestos could cause cancer. Johns Manville and other miners and suppliers of raw asbestos provided similar warnings to Union Carbide, General Electric, and other plastic molding compound companies.

Under New York State law, product manufacturers, not consumers or workers, are responsible for being aware of their products’ dangers and have a duty to warn users about those dangers. This duty cannot be delegated to another person or company. Manufacturers have a duty to warn about any hidden dangers associated with reasonable use of their products. Warnings must also clearly caution the user to avoid certain uses of the product “which would appear to be normal and reasonable.” The specificity of that warning depends on the degree of danger. Consumers and workers themselves typically lack the expertise to understand exactly how a product works, let alone to determine whether using it could result in contracting a deadly disease.

Every asbestos-related personal injury lawsuit rests on the claim that the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products failed to warn the injured party about the health risks of being exposed to the asbestos in their products. U.S. courts have regularly upheld a plaintiff’s right to have a jury of his or her peers decide if a manufacturer is liable for failing to provide an adequate warning. In our view, no manufacturer of plastic molding compound ever adequately warned a consumer or worker about the risk of cancer. We believe that companies like PLENCO, Occidental, G.E. (General Electric) and Rogers Corporation failed to meet their duties to people who were exposed to their products and are suffering from cancer as a result.

If you or a loved one has worked with or around asbestos-containing plastic molding compound and been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease, please contact us today.

Statute of Limitations – Time is of the Essence

Under New York State law, a third-party lawsuit based on a diagnosis of mesothelioma must be brought within three years of the date the plaintiff learns of his or her injury—or, with reasonable due diligence, the date he or she should have learned of the injury. Unfortunately, relatively few people suffering from mesothelioma live more than three years beyond the onset of their symptoms or diagnosis. While it is important to act quickly to avoid having your claim barred by the statute of limitations, it is even more important to act quickly so that you have a good chance of having your case heard and decided before you die.

New York State’s courts are sympathetic to the need of a plaintiff suffering from mesothelioma to have his or her case heard as soon as possible. Therefore, a case brought by a living mesothelioma sufferer will be given a fixed trial date ahead of most other cases. The sooner your case is set for trial, the sooner the company you’re suing will feel pressure to offer a settlement. An even more compelling reason to pursue your claim immediately is that the person suffering from mesothelioma is in the best position to provide an accurate account of his or her exposure to asbestos, including the names of the particular products he or she was exposed to and for which certain asbestos companies are legally responsible.

The attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford can help you preserve this information while you are still relatively healthy and sound of mind. As soon as your lawsuit is filed, arrangements can be made for you to testify under oath on video for later use at a trial. Contact us for more information.

Recent Review

If you want attorneys who really care about you and your family, look no further. Everyone at that firm really goes out of their way to give you the best outcome possible. – Michelle A.