Nebraska and Asbestos Exposure

Though Nebraska has no naturally-occurring asbestos deposits, the material can still be found within the state’s borders, especially in the power plants that provide electricity for the state.  Because of its resistance to fire and extreme temperatures, asbestos was often used in power plants and petroleum refineries to prevent the threat of fire.  Because of its fibrous nature, the material could also be woven into cloth that was used to insulate electrical wires and even serve as protective clothing for workers who came into contact with high heat.  Sadly, the very material that was supposed to protect the workers often ended up harming them.

When asbestos is contained within cloth, cement, or other materials, it is generally not harmful.  However, when these materials become worn or damaged, the asbestos fibers are released into the air where they can be breathed into the lungs.  Once there, the body’s immune system is unable to flush them out, and over time they can lead to health problems such as lung scarring, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining of the chest or abdomen.

Luckily, Nebraska’s rate of asbestos-related diseases is relatively low.  Between 1980 and 2000, there were just under 200 reported asbestos-related deaths.  Though more cases of asbestosis were diagnosed, the number of deaths from mesothelioma was twice that of asbestosis deaths.  This is because asbestosis is generally treatable, and the symptoms often diminish when the patient is no longer being exposed to asbestos.  Mesothelioma, however, is difficult to diagnose, and by the time it is detected, the disease has usually progressed beyond the realm of standard cancer treatments.

The majority of companies who used asbestos have gone bankrupt due to numerous lawsuits. Unfortunately, many of the people who may possibly become ill in the future due to their exposure to asbestos may not receive compensation for their medical expenses and treatments due to the bankruptcy of their former employers. Currently, Nebraska senator Ben Nelson is working on a way for all of the people who become ill from the exposure to asbestos to be compensated. Many people believe that all of the victims deserve some sort of compensation. An Asbestos Litigation Reform has been proposed but is not in effect just yet. If it does go through, there would be enough money to help pay for all of the asbestos cases for the next twenty five years.