From 1999 to 2013, in Pennsylvania alone, asbestos-related diseases took the life of an estimated 14,216 people. Allegheny County had the highest average, with an estimated 107 deaths a year. Of the other 66 counties, 27 more were at a minimum of four times the national average, with some as much as 13 times.
Pennsylvania is only one of six states that have experienced high asbestos-related death rates. The other five states are Delaware, Maine, Montana, Virginia and West Virginia. Allegheny County in Pennsylvania is the highest in asbestos-related deaths because it encompasses the largest industrial area, according to an epidemiologist who works for the Allegheny County Health Department.
What are asbestos-related diseases? Lung cancer or mesothelioma (cancer) are two asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma is rare and is nearly always due to asbestos exposure. It starts in the lungs, stomach or around the heart. Asbestosis is a respiratory disease that is caused by asbestos exposure; this disease is often fatal.
Asbestos is a mineral that has been used in insulation, building materials, cigarette filters and as an additive in cement. Its use has been decreased over the years when it became apparent that is was a hazardous air pollutant. Inhaling the asbestos fibers while working in industries that use asbestos can cause any one of the three asbestos-related diseases mentioned above. Unfortunately, the effects are often not discovered until 20-50 years later when it becomes fatal, thus, it has been called “the hidden killer.”
Though asbestos has been used in numerous building materials — especially in buildings erected before 1980 — such as roofing shingles, tile, insulation and wiring, the amount actually in the materials is not substantial. Those most at risk are workers who are, or have been, employed in the manufacturing of such materials. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, this is an illness derived from an occupation and should be covered by worker’s compensation. Even if the employment was years ago, this should not eliminate a worker’s compensation claim for this type of illness, although, it may take legal representation to litigate your claim.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Study: Asbestos deaths in Allegheny County, Pa. much higher than national average,” Don Hopey, July 06, 2015