COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a type of lung disease which causes people to have difficulty breathing, which, over time, becomes worse.
COPD is much like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and while the primary cause of the disease is smoking, chemical fumes, exposure to asbestos and other environmental toxins can also cause COPD.
People who have developed asbestosis or mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos may also develop the complication of COPD.
It is estimated that about 12 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with COPD each year and COPD is the 4th leading cause of death in our nation.
COPD tends to develop slowly, over time, with wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, cough and increased mucus production worsening as the disease progresses.
Because the elasticity of the lungs is affected by COPD, patients with the disease can have a difficult time breathing. Complications of COPD include pneumonia, heart attack, high blood pressure and a much greater risk of respiratory infection.
Data Supports Asbestos Linked to COPD?
Because COPD can be caused by the inhalation of fumes or substances, and because asbestos was, at one time, widely used at industrial job sites, workers who inhaled asbestos fibers could later develop COPD.
Further, those whose lungs are made weaker by COPD, are likely to be much more susceptible to any type of lung damage caused by asbestos.
In fact, a Swedish study of more than 300,00 construction workers found that those with COPD who had also been exposed to asbestos were almost three times as likely to die from the disease, than those who had no exposure to asbestos.
Environmental Health Journal published a study in 2011 discovered that almost four million years of healthy life was lost across the globe in a single year among those whose COPD was the result of occupational exposure to asbestos dust.
It is important to make the distinction that while COPD is not a direct result of asbestos fiber inhalation, there is a definite connection between asbestos exposure and COPD, most likely because exposure to asbestos weakens the lungs, and when the lungs are weakened, there is a greater risk of COPD.
What Should You Do?
To determine whether COPD is a result of asbestos exposure, a doctor will take a detailed history to determine the patient’s history of asbestos exposure, usually in the workplace, and usually for decades.
A reliable work history can provide the most practical measure of asbestos exposure.
Typically, asbestos-related disorders manifest many years following the exposure, whether the person received direct exposure (usually through the workplace) or “bystander” exposure. As an example of bystander exposure, many of the wives of men who worked in an environment with asbestos later developed asbestos related diseases.
It was later discovered that the tiny asbestos fibers became imbedded in the men’s clothing, and when the wives did the laundry, they themselves were unwittingly inhaling asbestos fibers.
Occupations with a High Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Any type of manufacturing of products which contained asbestos, milling asbestos, mining asbestos, working in the construction trades (particularly, electricians, plumbers, insulators, pipefitters, carpenters and sheet metal workers), those who work in shipyards or manufacture automotive brakes, and those who are involved in asbestos removal can have a significant exposure to asbestos.
Environmental exposure to asbestos is also a potential hazard, although much less likely than workplace exposure.
Environmental exposure could occur among those who live near an asbestos mine or those who live or work in a building with exposed asbestos sources.
Those who have been diagnosed with COPD should examine their past work and environmental history to determine whether their COPD could have been caused or exacerbated by asbestos exposure.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related disease, our attorneys are ready and willing to help.
At Landry & Swarr, our attorneys can help hold negligent employers accountable and pursue maximum compensation, so you have the money you need during this difficult and stressful time.