Authored by Kelsey McCandless

“So, what do you do?”

Whenever I answer this question and people learn that I work in a law firm specializing in asbestos litigation, I get a lot of curious looks and questions.

I am often asked why I decided to pursue this type of law and why our firm’s work is important to me, especially when “asbestos isn’t even an issue today.” It seems that, for most people, there is no question that asbestos is dangerous and that asbestos exposure can cause cancer, so they often think the work we do should be easy. The reality, however, is more complex. 

It is tempting to dismiss asbestos as a problem of the past. For most of the 1900s, asbestos was widely used in construction materials in the United States because of the fiber’s strength and fireproofing properties. Despite the positive features of asbestos’s durability, scientists soon discovered that the fibers posed a health risk to those exposed. By the mid-1930s, researchers already believed in a link between asbestos fibers and life-threatening respiratory ailments, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. By the 1970s, the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure were widely known and well documented.

In the decades since the initial discoveries of the harmful effects of asbestos exposure, the use of the fiber in building materials has decreased significantly in the U.S.; however, it has never been federally banned. Additionally, even after the dangers of asbestos became broadly known, some companies continued to use products that contained asbestos and failed to protect their workers from exposure. 

Americans continue to feel the effects of the past widespread asbestos use today, as the fibers can take decades to cause health consequences after exposure. The time between first exposure and the development of the disease is estimated to fall between 10 and 50 years. Even 30 years after peak asbestos use in the United States, around 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma yearly. We have seen this firsthand with our clients. 

Modern consumers are also at risk of being exposed to asbestos-contaminated products produced today. For example, earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson stated that it would end the worldwide sale of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in 2023 due in part to discoveries that the product had been contaminated with asbestos into the 2000s. In addition, as recently as 2019, the Food and Drug Administration found the mineral fibers in several makeup products from the retailer Claire’s. 

Despite these revelations and the science-backed research that asbestos causes cancer, there is an ongoing debate in the courtroom about whether and how much asbestos is dangerous. Corporate defendants routinely hire experts to testify that plaintiffs’ exposures to asbestos are not significant enough to contribute to their mesothelioma. They purposefully design defense strategies that manipulate dust disease science to avoid legal liability for the injuries their products cause to workers, consumers, and their family members. 

When so many people assume asbestos is not a threat anymore, knowing the reality can be disheartening. This is why the work we do has meaning for me. When our clients and their family members contact us for help, we empathize with their pain and frustration and do whatever it takes to hold bad actors responsible for harming them.

Our clients are gravely ill due to no fault of their own and suffer from cancer caused by the irresponsibility of companies that did not value workers and their families. Fighting for them is what this work is all about.