Romeo and Rosa M. received $38 million in a verdict against Burnham Boilers for Romeo’s asbestos lung cancer.
Romeo worked with hundreds of Burnham boilers in the 1970s and 1980s. Boilers, like many machines producing heat, were insulated with asbestos to protect from heat damage. Boiler workers were routinely exposed to asbestos on the job during the 1980s and earlier.
The jury found Burnham 85% responsible for the plaintiff’s stage 4 lung cancer. Romeo also smoked 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years.
The family’s asbestos lung cancer compensation consisted of $31.5 million in compensatory damages to the family and an additional $6.5 million in punitive damages as a punishment to the defendant and a hopeful deterrent to prevent future malicious acts from corporations.
Cigarette Smoking and Asbestos Exposure Together Can Amplify Each’s Effects
While most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking cigarettes, asbestos causes an estimated 7,000-11,000 cases of lung cancer in the U.S. each year.
According to an article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the dangers of developing lung cancer from cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure are dramatically amplified when the two are combined. For instance, the study states:
- Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of lung cancer by 10-fold
- Asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer by 5-fold
- The two together increase the risk of lung cancer by 50-fold
Smoking also increases the risk of asbestosis for people exposed to asbestos. Asbestosis is a non-cancerous, yet deadly, lung scarring disease.
Mesothelioma, the other main disease caused by asbestos exposure, does not have any association with cigarette smoking. People who smoked cigarettes are not at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
How Asbestos Causes Lung Cancer
Asbestos is not dangerous when it’s intact, but it can be easily disturbed and lead to loose fibers breaking apart and contaminating the air. Workers, such as boiler workers, were at risk of breathing in or swallowing these loose, floating fibers when asbestos in boilers was disturbed.
Once asbestos fibers enter the body, they can travel to the chest cavity and get stuck in the outer layer of lung tissue. The fibers are sharp, with pointed ends, and can cause severe irritation, which turns into genetic mutation of lung tissue cells.
Lung cancer from asbestos exposure can take 15-40 years to form in the body. So even though a boiler worker such as Romeo M. was exposed in the 1970s and 1980s, his cancer didn’t materialize for nearly half a century.
If you or a loved one has lung cancer or mesothelioma, our patient advocates can help you. Email our registered nurse, Karen Ritter, at firstname.lastname@example.org for any medical questions and advice on finding legal help to learn about your asbestos exposure history.
Sources & Author
Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer: An Update. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6982078/. Accessed: 08/17/2023.
Sources & Author