Michael Serling and Eric Abramson joined the host of Gracefully Greying for a Q&A to discuss important questions around asbestos, mesothelioma, and your legal rights.
Read below to learn more about these important topics or watch the full podcast episode here.
Question: Is there a correlation between smoking, asbestos, and mesothelioma?
Answer: There is no correlation between smoking and mesothelioma. All the experts will agree, defense experts, as well as our own, are in agreement on this. Mesothelioma is caused by one thing and one thing alone, exposure to asbestos.
If you get mesothelioma, doctors who are informed will turn to you and ask you, “How were you exposed to asbestos?” The only caveat to that I would say is between 1952 to 1956 there was one tobacco company, who had the brilliant idea of manufacturing a cigarette that used a very volatile form of asbestos called chrysotile in their Kent micronite filters. We’ve actually handled those cases as well, but there is no correlation.
Outside of that [instance], where there actually was asbestos in the cigarettes, there is no correlation between smoking and asbestos.
Question: Discuss the issue of smoking and eligibility for compensation from asbestos manufacturers.
Answer: That's an issue that we're often asked about. First of all, we often see smoking cases. Many of our clients over the years have smoked at one time or another. If you look back in time and look at what was known about the hazards of smoking back in the 60s and 50s, to what we know today - it's a whole different world.
Today, we know definitively that smoking causes emphysema and it causes lung cancer - but back in the 60s and 50s, what was really known to the General Public about the association between lung cancer and smoking was not quite as crystal clear as it is today. People often in those days smoked at a much higher rate.
There was a 1969 study done by dr. Irving Selleckoff, who was the foremost expert in asbestos medicine, and Doctor Selleckoff’s article states that a person in the general population who is a smoker but not exposed to asbestos is 7 times more likely to develop lung cancer. He also states a person who has asbestos exposure but is not a smoker is 4 times more likely. But when you put the two together there's a synergistic effect similar to throwing gasoline on a fire and the person is 90 times greater at a risk of developing lung cancer.
Question: How much exposure is necessary to get mesothelioma?
Answer: In the case of mesothelioma, some medical experts believe that one [instance of] exposure can trigger the cancer. This is known as the Single Fiber Theory.
Most experts, however, give the opinion that it takes at least a short continuous period of exposure. As I mentioned before, like a summer job taking 2-3 months or a project around the house that took an extended period of time where they were using plaster or drywall products that contained asbestos.
Brake linings are another example of this because some people did their own bricks many years ago and they would blow out the brake drums with an air hose and it would become airborne.
Lung cancer though is a different matter, most experts want to see some scarring of the pleura or scarring of the inside of a lung before they will make a connection and this time frame is more than a summer job. It would probably require about 5 years of exposure to connect with a lung cancer case.
Question: What are the steps to pursuing a mesothelioma case?
The most important thing we can do is to right away start to gather information. We start by conducting a number of very thorough interviews with the client and with their family members. The idea is to gather up as much evidence from the person exposed or the person who has the disease, the best evidence comes from that person. The idea is we want to gather as much information about the parties who were responsible for his exposure that caused the development of the disease.
We have an extensive database of information that we gathered by Michael, who tried his first case over fifty years ago. Over that time period, and in between the time that I came in at 1989, we've gathered an intense, incredibly large database of information, including records of job sites that we have subpoenaed from work sites themselves, factories, contractors that did their work there, who’s products were being bought at the site.
We’ve taken thousands upon thousands of depositions over the years of our clients, of co-workers, people who actually brought the materials to the job sites. So that we know whose products are responsible for that particular person’s disease. We Gather, we search, we don’t just rely on our database. We are still searching records in the national archives. Who have cases all across the country who worked in the shipyards, on the West Coast and on the East Coast. We're searching records of what was used in the construction of those ships in the national archives.
More locally, we also check on the state records for abatement records and things like that. There's an intense amount of record gathering and review that goes on in the early parts of a case. That’s why it’s so important in the beginning to gather up as much of that information as possible.
Also, an important part of this is making sure that if your clients are looking for information about cutting-edge treatment options that are going on in the country, we have connections with doctors all across the country. We can help our clients if they're looking for that kind of information or if they're seeing a doctor currently but they want a second opinion. We're more than happy to guide them into those hands as well.
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