Pennsylvanians suffer from high rate of asbestos related deaths

A recent report found Pennsylvania had 50 to 100 percent higher death rates due to asbestos exposure than the national average.

The dangers of working with asbestos are well known, but the exact number of people killed by this deadly, natural fiber remains a mystery. Estimates recently released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) find as many as 15,000 Americans die every year from diseases connected to asbestos exposure.

A recent study released by the EWG Action Fund reports that Pennsylvania along with Delaware, Maine, Montana, Washington and West Virginia were found to have death rates that far exceeded the national average. The rates of these states were reported at 50 to 100 percent higher than the national average.

More on the report: Impact in Pennsylvania

According to the report, there were 14,216 asbestos related deaths in Pennsylvania from 1999 to 2013. The deaths were broken down into the following categories:

  • Asbestosis. 1,273 deaths were attributed to asbestosis. The medical experts at Mayo Clinic define asbestosis as a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Exposure to these fibers for a long period of time can cause scaring of the lung tissue and shortness of breath.
  • Mesothelioma. 2,601 deaths during this period were from mesothelioma. This aggressive and deadly cancer affects the thin layer of tissue that covers internal organs, called the mesothelium.
  • Non-mesothelioma lung cancer. 10,404 deaths are estimated to have been caused by lung cancers that are not connected to mesothelioma. The mesothelioma and asbestosis data was gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WONDER database. Gathering data for the number of asbestosis related deaths attributable to lung cancer that is not connected to one of the previous two diseases is difficult, as death certificates do not note whether there was exposure to asbestos. The information gathered for this statistic was from EWG's research.

Additional deaths connected to asbestos are likely, including those attributed to cancers of the larynx, ovaries, stomach and colorectal areas.

Remedies available for victims

Those who worked in air, auto and mining industries, in the fields of construction or railways as well as electricians are all at increased risk of exposure to asbestosis. Even those who worked in buildings with asbestos insulation are at an increased risk. Since asbestos fibers can be carried on a worker's clothing, spouses, children and other loved ones that were in frequent contact with the worker are also at increased risk of developing asbestosis related illnesses.

Those who are exposed to asbestos within their workplace and develop one of these diseases are likely eligible to receive compensation to help cover the costs of medical treatment, rehabilitation and other expenses connected to the disease. This is true even decades after initial exposure. Contact an experienced Pennsylvania asbestos work injury attorney to discuss your case and better ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.

Keywords: workers' compensation asbestos exposure