January 23, 2015 – My grandfather was a strong man and worked most of his life in and around shipyards on the Texas coast. Years of working there was what ultimately led to his demise. He came home with a loud cough and sometimes complained of chest pains, but being the strong and fearless type of man he ignored most of the pain.
We pleaded with him to go to the doctor to see what was going on – one day, to our surprise he did seek medical help.
Once the doctors did a medical screening including x-rays, lung biopsy and many other tests, they diagnosed his condition and called it “black lung” disease. This was a shock to the family as we had never heard of black lung. What is it and how did he get this terrible sounding disease?
For many years we searched for answers, this was before the Internet age, and the research was slow and difficult. Time spend reading medical publications and journals but didn’t give us many answers.
Some doctors assumed it was from breathing coal dust, but granddad wasn’t a miner at any time of his life. He was a fisherman and a dock worker – so why did he get black lung?
Granddad passed away 6 months after he was diagnosed – his killer worked fast.
It was many years later that we begin to unravel the clues to his mysterious death.
Shipyards around the world are busy ports where many different types of activities occur. Some shipyards build ships, some are ports of entry; some are used to fix and repair large ships.
But all shipyards have one thing in common – they all have high levels of toxic chemicals. Chemicals used to insulate ships, chemicals to help prevent corrosion, chemicals to help prevent fires, chemicals used in many different manufacturing processes.
We begin to do research on every know chemical used in these shipyards and one in particular stood out.
Asbestos was the one that we begin to focus on. It turns out that asbestos was widely used in the late 19th century as a building material, and its use increased during World War II. It was used to help insulate ships and as a fire suppression insulator.
Researchers began to realize that people who inhaled airborne asbestos particles were struggling with expelling those particles from their bodies. These particles eventually lodged in people’s lung tissue and led to serious diseases that usually proved to be fatal. Examples of these diseases included lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
When ship workers like granddad were exposed to asbestos and began having breathing and other health problems the EPA banned all use of asbestos in 1989, but it was too late, we now know he died from mesothelioma, not black lung.
This finding had a profound impact on me and I decided to bring as much information that I could find about the link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, to as many people I could find.
It turns out that asbestos was used in so many different industries and buildings that it’s possible that almost every person may have been exposed to this killer material at some point in their life time.
The number of people potentially exposed to asbestos is quite large.
Estimates have been made of the numbers of cancers that are projected to result from past exposures to asbestos in a number of occupations and industries.
From 1940 through 1979, 27,500,000 individuals had potential asbestos exposure at work. Of these, 18,800,000 had exposure in excess of that equivalent to two months employment in primary manufacturing or as an insulator. 21,000,000 of the 27,500,000 and 14,100,000 of the 18,800,000 are estimated to have been alive on January 1, 1980.
My mission now is to bring this to light and to help people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma get the legal help they deserve. Because mesothelioma is a fast killer, the U.S. Courts are now fast-tracking all mesothelioma claims, as people have little time to live.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, I urge you to take action and hold these industries accountable!