Asbestos Lung Cancer, Mesothelioma Lawsuit Filings Rose Last Year: Report

According to a new report, the number of asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma lawsuits rose sharply last year, even as litigation involving other injuries linked to asbestos declined.

The Washington-based business consultancy firm KCIC published a report that evaluated case filings in recent years, finding that asbestos lung cancer lawsuits increased by more than 20% in 2019, and mesothelioma case filings increased by about 2%.

However, the overall number of asbestos exposure cases filed last year dropped by 2%, with a total of 4,065 in 2019, compared to 4,135 filings in 2018.

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Exposure to asbestos can cause the development of mesothelioma. Lawsuits have been filed nationwide against asbestos manufacturers.

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The group predicts that as more information becomes available, the 2019 numbers may be revised and show a slight increase in overall asbestos lawsuits filed.

The findings comes amid an ongoing debate about whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should ban all remaining uses of asbestos in the U.S., which the EPA has refused to do to date. However, the health risks associated with asbestos typically take years, or even decades to surface.

Exposure to the toxic fibers has been found to increase the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, which is typically at a very advanced and untreatable stage by the time it is diagnosed.

These risks have been known for about a century, although they did not get widely publicized the mid 1960s. As a result, most modern, first-world countries banned asbestos use in its entirety decades ago. But not the United States.

While most uses were banned in this country, there is still about 750 metric tons of asbestos used in the U.S. every year. The EPA was given a chance to ban asbestos again in 2016, as part of a new chemical safety law meant to require safety reviews of key chemicals, but refused.

The EPA again refused to put an outright ban on asbestos in place in April 2019, as part of a significant new use rule. That decision came amid public comments by doctors, health experts and consumers who supported a ban.

Currently, asbestos is banned for use in corrugated paper, roll board, commercial paper, and specialty paper, flooring felt and new commercial uses that begin after August 25, 1989. However, even though the fibrous material is toxic even in small amounts, it is still in use in some industries. It is frequently used in automobile brake pads and clutches, vinyl tiles and roofing materials.

Although asbestos has been banned in more than 60 countries, and is the number one cause of work-related deaths in the world, the United States still continues to import and use the cancer-causing material in every day products, despite recognizing its potential dangers more than 40 years ago.

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