Miners face many dangers on the job, including the possibility of being exposed to asbestos – a group of naturally occurring minerals that are known to cause cancer. If you or a loved one has been part of the mining industry and was diagnosed with mesothelioma or another illness connected to asbestos, contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP for a free consultation. You may be entitled to financial compensation.
The Dangers of Occupational Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a dangerous substance that was confirmed to be carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1987. Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, an aggressive and rare form of cancer that has no known cure. The symptoms associated with mesothelioma include a persistent cough, bloody sputum, chest pain or tightness, respiratory issues, shortness of breath, fever, and night sweats.
Exposure to asbestos can also cause illnesses such as asbestosis, a chronic lung condition that can cause trouble breathing and a persistent cough. Asbestos has also been connected to lung cancer, esophageal cancer, other cancers and conditions of the pleura (the membrane that protects the lungs). Asbestos exposure can cause these diseases by becoming lodged in the inner tissues of the body and creating enough irritation and scar tissue over time to result in chronic conditions.
While the National Cancer Institute states that there is no “safe” amount of asbestos exposure, those who are exposed to it often are at a higher risk of developing related diseases. This includes people who work near or around asbestos, such as miners. Miners may inhale asbestos dust on the job. The latency period, or amount of time between exposure to asbestos and a diagnosis, is an average of 20-60+ years. This means miners can discover illnesses decades later, even after asbestos mining has ceased.
Asbestos Exposure in Mining
Before asbestos became regulated by the federal government, it was mined heavily in multiple states. Asbestos mining in the U.S. ceased in 2002 but was active for decades prior. Asbestos mines are not the only risk for miners, however; processing rock and ore in many other types of mines could also put workers at risk of being exposed to asbestos. This includes miners of coal, talc, vermiculite and taconite.
In addition to being directly exposed to raw asbestos, miners could encounter this dangerous mineral in the equipment, machines and gear they use on the job. Asbestos was used to produce many fire-resistant mining operation tools, such as thermal insulation, heat panels, brake linings and packing glands. If this equipment gets damaged or disturbed in any way, asbestos fibers could become airborne and put a worker at risk of exposure.
Unfortunately, the miners themselves are not the only ones at risk. Miners could also put their family members and loved ones at risk of secondhand asbestos exposure by bringing particles of asbestos home with them on their clothes, shoes, gear, skin and hair. Anyone living near an active asbestos, coal or talc mine could be at risk of breathing in dust or air that contains asbestos fibers.
Active Asbestos Mines Today
There are currently no active asbestos mines in operation in the United States, although other countries such as Russia, China and Brazil still produce asbestos. The first American asbestos mine opened in Georgia in 1894, followed by about 60 other mines in the Eastern U.S. Chrysotile was the most commonly mined type of asbestos, as it could be woven and was used in an abundance of products and consumer goods. Chrysotile asbestos is also the most dangerous type – it is the main cause of malignant mesothelioma, according to the National Library of Medicine.
The state with the largest number of asbestos mines in operation was North Carolina, with 27 former asbestos mines and 10 former asbestos prospects, followed by Georgia with 17 mines and 26 prospects. The last chrysotile asbestos mine, located in California, ceased operation in 2002. The last asbestos mining operation in the Eastern U.S. was located in north-central Vermont, closing in 1993. Working or living anywhere near an asbestos mine could expose victims to dangerous levels of asbestos in the atmosphere and environment.
Asbestos mining may have stopped years ago in the U.S., but miners and those in mining communities are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and other health conditions connected to asbestos exposure today. According to a 2022 study by the European Commission, over 70,000 workers died worldwide in 2019 from past exposure to asbestos on the job. The Commission found that as much as 78 percent of occupational cancers are related to asbestos.
What Are a Miner’s Rights After Asbestos Exposure?
As a miner who has suffered a serious illness due to asbestos exposure, you may qualify for compensation through one or more legal outlets. If your employer negligently exposed you to asbestos, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the company or file a workers’ compensation claim in pursuit of a monetary recovery for your losses.
If your employer has gone out of business or declared bankruptcy, you could still qualify for compensation as an injured miner through an asbestos trust fund. These are funds set up by companies to pay asbestos victims after bankruptcy. If you lived next to or near a mine and were exposed to asbestos, you may be able to sue the owner of the mine.
Individuals and the family members of victims who passed away from mesothelioma can file lawsuits claiming that exposure to asbestos occurred because of a mine. Another possibility is filing a lawsuit against a manufacturer for using asbestos in its products, such as mining machinery and equipment. Bailey & Glasser, LLP has successfully secured over $90 million in settlements and verdicts for past clients. We will help you explore all of your legal options.
Help for Miners and Their Families | Contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP
At Bailey & Glasser, LLP, our asbestos attorneys are prepared to help you protect your rights as a miner or family member who has been affected by exposure to asbestos on the job. Your career as a miner should not put your life at risk. Our attorneys are passionate about pursuing justice for miners and workers who have been exposed to asbestos due to the negligence of others. Contact us today at (866) 871-7971 to request a free case consultation, where you can learn more about your legal rights and options.