Unexpected rise in mesothelioma deaths since 2005, reports CDC

A startling March 2017 report from the federal agency shows a startling increase in mesothelioma fatalities from 1999 through 2015.

Federal researchers had expected that after 2005, deaths from mesothelioma would have started to decline in numbers. A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, however, shows otherwise and raises concerns about ongoing worker safety.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a fatal asbestos-related cancer of the thin linings around major organs, especially of the lungs. The lining around the lungs is called the pleura, thus this kind of mesothelioma is called pleural mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma can take decades to develop, so it often shows up in elderly victims, and at an advanced stage. Treatment is mostly palliative to lessen the impact of symptoms. According to the CDC, the median survival length after diagnosis is only about one year. Without many treatment options, many patients choose to participate in clinical trials of experimental treatment.

What does the report say?

The new CDC report looks at mesothelioma statistics from 1999 through 2015, during which time 45,221 malignant mesothelioma deaths were recorded, looking at people in the U.S. at least 25 years old. Over that time span, the number of annual deaths from the devastating diagnosis increased 4.8 percent. Although asbestos is not banned in the U.S., researchers had expected the numbers to decline after 2005 because of governmental regulation that restricted asbestos in some products and increased safety requirements in the workplace.

Instead, deaths continued to increase, leading the CDC researchers to conclude that the continuing deaths, especially among "younger populations," shows that exposure-prevention efforts must continue along with ongoing study and observation of the disease.

Historically throughout the 1900s workers were typically exposed to asbestos in shipbuilding and repair, construction, manufacturing, mining, petroleum refining, chemical production and other industrial jobs. Those workers reaching advanced age may still develop mesothelioma. The CDC reports that current exposure to the mineral mostly happens in "maintenance and remediation" of buildings built with materials containing asbestos.

A solid object containing asbestos is not dangerous, but if it breaks up or disintegrates, the microscopic fibers are released into the air where they can enter the lungs. Accordingly, unless materials in buildings are first tested for asbestos and safely removed, when they are broken up, sanded or crushed in renovation, maintenance, remediation or demolition, the fibers are released, exposing workers.

Many who advocate for the victims of asbestos exposure, particularly in violation of work-safety regulations, are concerned about federal government proposals to cut agency budgets, especially the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, which is responsible for many asbestos cleanup projects such as Superfund sites, as well as for the provision of support to state and local governments and to private employers.

In the meantime, if you develop mesothelioma or your loved one dies from the disease, be sure to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to understand what legal remedies you may have for unlawful or negligent asbestos exposure.

With offices in Manitowoc and Green Bay, Wisconsin, the personal injury lawyers of Alpert & Fellows, L.L.P., represent the victims of asbestos-related mesothelioma cancer and their families.