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California Faces New Asbestos Battles

Oct 10, 2007
You'd think that the multimillion dollar settlements seen in some mesothelioma lawsuits would have taught us a lesson. Since the 1950s, when the first lawsuits involving mesothelioma and asbestos hit the courtrooms and the juries, we've been hearing about the dangers of asbestos to humans.

Asbestos, the most common fireproofing material ever used, is a naturally occurring mineral with remarkable qualities. Those qualities made it one of the most widely used materials of any kind in construction, heating, roadwork, insulation, shipbuilding, railway work and many other industries. The profits to be made in the sale and use of asbestos were enormous - enormous enough that many companies that used it in their products deliberately hid evidence that it causes deadly lung diseases, endangering any workers that handled asbestos regularly as well as the general public.

It took years of research and court battles, but it was finally established that asbestos causes mesothelioma, one of the most virulent forms of cancer known. Further and more importantly, lawyers for the plaintiffs in one mesothelioma lawsuit after another proved that the companies in question had acted with disregard for the safety of their workers.

The general public was horrified to learn how callously businessmen had made decisions that condemned thousands of their employees to death for the sake of bigger profits. Public pressure forced legislation that finally put restrictions on the use of asbestos, requires full disclosure of the dangers of working with asbestos, and mandates the use of protective equipment for all workers who handle asbestos in the course of their work.

Many of the companies that were charged in the earliest stages of the mesothelioma suits have declared bankruptcy in the light of large settlements in favor of the plaintiffs. The companies fought back, hiring the best lawyers they could find, pitting their deep pockets against the meager resources of the plaintiffs - most of them working class men and women who had spent their lives building for retirement years that they'd never live to see.

They combated - and still fight - every restriction and safety measure proposed, arguing that the expense was unjustified, that the risk was unproven, that the proposed regulations would cripple American industry and cause a national depression in a domino effect. The laws passed, though, in most cases, and we breathed a little easier.

But at least, we believed, big business had learned a lesson - that the American public would not tolerate the lies; that they'd be held accountable and made to pay. But apparently, it's not so.

In the El Dorado hills of Northern California, the cases of lung disease, pneumonia, asbestosis and mesothelioma are far above the statistical norms. The cause - veins of natural asbestos that run through the serpentine earth.

In 2002, construction of a soccer field at a local school uncovered a vein of asbestos. The EPA did further tests over the course of the next three years and published their report on the asbestos contamination in the area in 2005. The findings - that El Dorado has a higher level of airborne asbestos than Libby, Montana, the most notorious site of asbestos exposure in the country.

Residents on the El Dorado area have been pressing for investigation and safeguards and regulations to control construction in the area since the late eighties. While residents applauded proposed regulations, area construction industry protested that there was no proof that the asbestos levels were a problem.

Area mining, building and construction concerns joined together to sue the air board over the proposed regulations. The reasons? The costs are prohibitive. The necessity to comply with regulations will drive companies out of business or force them to relocate elsewhere.

Even the county environmental office was skeptical of the EPA report. Local officials called the EPA "alarmist" and accused them of spreading scare stories that could "destroy the county for years". It's estimated that there is naturally occurring asbestos in the ground in 41 California communities. The issue is that the asbestos is released at high levels when the ground is disturbed. Once inhaled, the asbestos can eventually cause mesothelioma.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. These are the exact same arguments that are mounted by the lawyers for defendants in mesothelioma lawsuits all over the country. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you could be at risk of developing mesothelioma. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos related disease, you'll want a top mesothelioma lawyer in California to evaluate your case and learn about your rights to compensation.
About the Author
Nick Johnson is lead counsel with Johnson Law Group. Johnson represents plaintiffs in many states and focuses on injury cases involving Fen-Phen and PPH, Paxil, Mesothelioma and Nursing Home Abuse. Call Nick Johnson at 1-888-311-5522 or visit http://www.johnsonlawgroup.com
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