Oregon and much of the Pacific Northwest rests on the operations of a handful of specific industries that do not flourish in too many other parts of the country. In particular, shipyards, paper mills, sawmills, chemical plants, and lumber and timber facilities are a big part of the economy in this corner of the United States. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who did not recognize the name of a paper or shipping company in the upper Willamette Valley.
Unfortunately, many workers in these industries may have in the past been exposed to hazardous materials in the line of work which have the potential to cause terminal illness later in life. In recent years, heightened attention has been given to asbestos exposure at industrial jobsites and how this hazardous substance can cause mesothelioma, a debilitating and potentially-fatal disease of the lungs. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer in which a tumor forms in the lining of the lungs, called the mesothelium. The tumor is caused by asbestos fibers that have migrated over the years through the body and air sacks of the lung to the outer lining. There is some indication that some other industrial dust particles and fiber particles can also cause mesothelioma, though there is still debate about this.
In 2004, mesothelioma fatalities were studied all across Oregon and it was determined that the state had the 15th highest rate of deaths due to this disease from 1979 to 2001. Most people today who get diagnosed with mesothelioma have developed symptoms, or tumors from exposure that happened decades ago. The latency period for developing mesothelioma is widely accepted as being between 10-40 years.
Asbestos’ Dangerous History
As asbestos is the only substance that has been certifiably linked to mesothelioma cases, it can safely be stated that it is a hazardous material. The longer one is exposed to asbestos, the more particles he or she will unintentionally breathe or ingest. In turn, this increased exposure increases the chances of developing mesothelioma.
The causal relationship between asbestos and mesothelioma has been recognized for nearly a century now. In 1931, asbestos use was regulated in Great Britain after it become apparent that the substance was causing illness in workers. The United States created guidelines for its use – but not strict laws – back in 1943. Years later, it was removed from consumer products and deemed unsafe for household insulation. Unfortunately, progress in safeguarding workers from exposure to asbestos was slow, and large numbers of people continued to be at risk for exposure on the job site until relatively recently. Even so, new asbestos containing products entering the industrial workplace today are still limited, mostly concrete pipe, and concrete sheet corrugation and perhaps other encapsulated plastics.
Most exposure today occurs when people work with older equipment and building materials, including:
- Furnaces and fire boxes
- Brake pads and clutches
- Home siding
- Boilers at old lumber mills and other plants
- Home insulation
Where is asbestos found in Oregon?
Asbestos is a mineral that can be found naturally, and it is highly resistant to fire, chemical deterioration, heat, electrical damage, tearing, and sound interference. Evidence even suggests that it was being mined in ancient civilizations due to its versatility and abundance. It is also relatively cheap to procure for most industrial applications. But despite all of these apparent benefits, the health hazards it poses are simply too great and outweigh the positives.
Asbestos in Oregon has been located in regions all around the state, such as:
- Mount Vernon
- Raspberry Creek
- Josephine County
- Evans Creek
- Grant County
What companies have had asbestos exposure problems in Oregon?
As previously mentioned, asbestos was primarily used as a form of insulation due to its resistance to heat. For example, shipyards used it to line the interior of ship engine rooms to prevent a devastating fire from consuming the entire vessel in the event of an emergency at sea. Sawmills, paper mills, and lumber processing facilities used asbestos to insulate the busiest and hottest parts of machinery, such as boilers and ventilation pipes; if one piece were to catch fire in a place so surrounded by wood and fine sawdust, the result could be catastrophic. The need to prevent a blaze is clear but, once again, using a substance known to cause mesothelioma in a large number of people who work with it is not the solution.
Companies in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest that have run into issues with asbestos exposure include, but are not limited to:
- Weyerhaeuser Paper Mill
- Albina Engine and Machine Works (James McCallister asbestos lawsuit)
- Martin-Marietta Aluminum Co.
- Burns Air Force Station
- Chiloquin Lumber & Box Company
- Georgia-Pacific Resin Plant
Anyone who worked in any of the industries mentioned earlier or for the employers listed above may have been at risk for asbestos exposure, and it should not be ruled out as a cause of serious health problems later in life without a thorough investigation.
Government Regulations and Legal Involvement with Asbestos
Both the state and federal governments have made efforts to lessen or eliminate the use of asbestos at industrial sites. In 1989, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed for legislation that would ban it from widespread use. While it seemed hopeful at first, the United States Fifth District Court of Appeals ultimately lifted the ban just two years later in 1991, purportedly due to lobbying and heavy corporate influence.
Alarming Asbestos-Mesothelioma Statistics in Oregon
Over the last 20 years, there have been approximately 850 reported deaths caused by mesothelioma. This suggests that the Pacific Northwest and its unique industries are exposing more people to asbestos than anywhere else in the country, and perhaps even the world.
You Can Fight for Compensation After Asbestos Exposure
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos, you might be able to hold your employer accountable if it is found that they have asbestos on their facilities. Contact our Oregon mesothelioma attorney from Angel Law, P.C. today. We are a personal injury law firm with an intense and deliberate focus on asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits. With our help, we may be able to secure lifelong compensation from the parties liable for your unhealthy or unreasonable exposure to this dangerous substance.