Flooring Contractors and Mesothelioma
Asbestos products could surround you in your home or office. Asbestos was in ceiling tiles and in fireproofing sprayed on steel beams. Sheetrock and joint compound contained the cancer-causing mineral fiber. Even the flooring and adhesive beneath your feet were made of asbestos.
Some workers installing and removing this flooring suffered the deadly consequences of inhaling asbestos. If this happened to you or a close family member, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm suffered.
During many decades, especially from the late 1940s to the late 1970s, vinyl floor manufacturers mixed in asbestos to increase its strength and make the flooring more fire-resistant. Vinyl asbestos-containing flooring became popular because it was inexpensive and easy to work with.
What Do Flooring Contractors Do?
Contractors work with general contractors to install flooring in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Homeowners may hire them to put down new floors or remove and replace older ones. This involves preparing the surface and possibly applying an adhesive before laying down the floor and applying a sealant.
How Were Flooring Contractors Exposed to Asbestos?
Like many asbestos-containing products, vinyl flooring isn’t hazardous if it’s new, intact, and left alone. Asbestos fibers are dangerous when they’re airborne and inhaled. Cutting, sanding, and disturbing a vinyl floor and its adhesive can release those fibers. Different types of flooring contained asbestos.
- Tile Flooring
Many buildings have asbestos-containing floor tiles. They were often used in high-traffic areas in homes, including bathrooms, kitchens, entryways, and hallways, because of their durability.
- Asbestos in Sheet Flooring
You can find asbestos-contaminated linoleum, laminate, and vinyl sheet flooring in older homes. If the sheet flooring doesn’t have asbestos, it may have a felt-like backing that does. Wood flooring may also have asbestos backing. Asbestos fibers can be released when floors are cut, drilled into, or pulled up.
- Asbestos in Flooring Adhesives
If your flooring doesn’t have asbestos in it, the adhesives used to affix it to the floor might. This black mastic was a popular product for contractors installing tiles and other floorings. Fibers could be released when this flooring is removed and dried mastic remaining on the floor is chipped away or sanded.
A flooring contractor could also be exposed if other trades around them were installing, removing, or replacing asbestos-containing products.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos?
Each year, about 50,000 people die in the US because of asbestos-related diseases, according to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer, asbestosis (lung scarring so severe it disables a person’s ability to breathe), and three kinds of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of a membrane lining different organs and parts of the body, which can develop years or decades after fibers are inhaled or swallowed.
After the fibers move into the lungs, our immune system tries to break them down but cannot. A cell will cover a fiber and use enzymes to try to break it down, but it will fail. The cell dies, enzymes spill out and injure cells around it. This causes inflammation and, if this happens enough times, asbestosis, which severely restricts a person’s ability to breathe.
The fibers can eventually lead to cell mutations that causes lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. Pericardial mesothelioma impacts the heart’s lining and peritoneal mesothelioma involves the membrane covering organs and the abdominal cavity.
There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure, and it’s unknown what level is necessary to cause pleural mesothelioma. People with fairly low asbestos exposure have developed it, while some with heavy exposure have not.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
The overall average five-year survival rate after diagnosis for those with pleural mesothelioma is 12%, according to the American Cancer Society. That depends on many variables, including age, overall health, and whether the cancer has spread. For those whose disease is localized when it’s found, the survival rate improves to 20%, but if it’s widely spread, it drops to 8%.
A study of pericardial patients states they lived, on average, two months after diagnosis. A 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer reviewed the outcomes for 108 peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Almost half of them (43.6%) survived seven or more years after treatment finished.
As a comparison, other cancers have the following overall five-year survival rates:
- Colon cancer 64%
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 64%
- Melanoma 93%
If you worked as a flooring contractor and were exposed to asbestos, see your healthcare provider to see if you may have an asbestos-related disease.
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Have you or a loved one worked as a flooring contractor and been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease? If so, Satterley & Kelley mesothelioma lawyers can answer your questions, advise you of your rights to compensation, and discuss what you must do to protect them.