Study: Asbestos-related deaths in Pennsylvania among highest in country

New research shows that Pennsylvania leads most other states in asbestos-related deaths and that, nationally, these deaths were underestimated in the past.

Since the dangers of asbestos were first realized, several federal regulations have sought to protect the public by curtailing the use of this product throughout the U.S. Unfortunately, since many asbestos-related diseases do not develop until decades after exposure, many people in Pittsburgh are still suffering from the effects of coming into contact with asbestos. Tragically, new research indicates that the area leads the state - which in turn leads much of the U.S. - in asbestos-related deaths.

High exposure rates

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund study found that Pennsylvania has suffered from one of the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths in the nation for more than a decade. Each year, the state sees more than twice the national average rate of these fatalities, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Just between 1999 and 2013, an estimated 14,216 people throughout Pennsylvania lost their lives to asbestos-related diseases.

During the same time period, more than one-third of all Pennsylvania counties saw fatality rates that exceeded the national average. In the worst case, some of these counties recorded 13 times the average number of asbestos-related deaths per county. Allegheny County experienced the highest rate of fatalities, with over 1,600 deaths, or an average of 107 lives lost annually.

Sadly, the study also found that more asbestos-related deaths are occurring throughout the U.S. than previously believed. Overall, the death rates estimated in the study were 20 to 50 percent higher than those estimated before.

Asbestos dangers

Sadly, people who have been exposed to asbestos even briefly may be at risk for these serious health consequences. This fibrous insulating material can break into small particles that cause inflammation in the lungs if inhaled, contributing to various respiratory diseases. These include:

· Asbestos-related lung cancer

· Asbestosis, which causes scarring of the lung tissue and respiratory problems

· Mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and other organs

Victims of asbestosis are often at risk for mesothelioma, and both types of cancer have a poor prognosis. In addition, asbestos exposure has been tied to a number of other serious cancers, including brain, kidney and colon cancer.

Liability issues

People who have developed any of these diseases because they were exposed to asbestos may be able to seek recompense from the responsible party. In some cases, the manufacturer of a product that contained asbestos might be liable; in others, an employer who let a worker face asbestos exposure might be considered responsible. Legally, however, these cases may present unique challenges, given the delay between exposure and the onset of asbestos-related diseases.

Given these issues, anyone who is suffering from an asbestos-related disease should consider consulting with a lawyer. An attorney might be able to help a person document the cause of the disease and seek fair recompense for medical costs, wage loss, pain and suffering, and other damages.