No Knowledge About Mesothelioma Until It’s Too Late
Asbestos related illnesses such as mesothelioma are particularly insidious because people often do not realize that they have the disease until decades after their exposure to asbestos. The severity of illness depends on how long the person was exposed and the amount inhaled.
Last week, the estate of a former New Mexico railroad employee sued BNSF Railway alleging wrongful death, due to asbestos exposure, of locomotive repair shop worker Santiago Riley. During 13 years of employment from 1942-1955 at railroad facilities in New Mexico and Arizona, Riley made locomotive repairs, performed various shop duties and swept floors around dusty asbestos-containing substances without any respiratory protection.
This exposure caused permanent injury and contributed to his eventual death, according to the lawsuit filed by his children. The estate seeks damages for mental and physical suffering, lost wages, medical bills and other financial losses.
An important takeaway of Santiago Riley’s story is that he and his family did not learn about his mesothelioma for years after this employment at BNSF.
Mesothelioma patients generally do not demonstrate symptoms of this disease until 20 to 50 years after their initial exposure to asbestos. Fibers that embed in the tissue surrounding the body’s internal organs, the mesothelium, usually must be present for many decades before the development of cancer. These fibers gradually accumulate and cause scarring, which leads to inflammation and cancer. Although these fibers are most often introduced into the body through inhalation, the material can also be introduced through ingestion as well. Initially, symptoms may be mild and an individual might not find them cause for alarm. However, as the cancer spreads, these symptoms become more severe and debilitating.