New Jersey and Asbestos Exposure
New Jersey has the unfortunate distinction of serving as an asbestos epicenter: asbestos is naturally abundant in the state, and countless New Jersey residents and workers have been harmed or killed by the crystalline mineral’s toxic effects. However, New Jersey also stands out for being the state in which historic legal battles against asbestos have been waged. In fact, a New Jersey lawyer uncovered a great asbestos scandal in 1977: Karl Asch exposed a conspiracy between Raybestos and Johns-Manville to keep the dangers of asbestos hidden from the public.
The population of New Jersey grew by approximately 1 million people between 1980 and 2000. During that time, almost 3,000 people died from asbestos-related illnesses. As a result, those who live or work (or previously lived or worked) in contaminated areas should be tested for mesothelioma complications. Some examples of contaminated areas include oil refineries, power plants, and shipyards.
According to a data registry from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, asbestos exposure may be especially high among oil industry employees. Since petrochemicals are both toxic and highly flammable, employees at New Jersey refineries wear heavily insulated protective gear – and historically, a major component of that protective gear was asbestos.
New Jersey power plant workers may also be at high risk for asbestos exposure. Statistics from health centers indicate higher-than-average rates of lung complications among electricians, plumbers, and other maintenance personnel working at power plants. Asbestos may be present in the panel partitions, electrical cloth, and other materials that they regularly come into contact with.
Navy veterans are among the war veterans with the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases. More than 70 years ago, naval vessels started to use asbestos in order to prevent fatal fires. The ironic result is that perhaps as many enlistees died from respiratory illnesses as from combat fatalities. Data from the National Cancer Institute suggest that shipyard workers may also be at increased risk of developing asbestos disease.
Although the field of asbestos-related diseases is becoming a subspecialty, most doctors in this field are not known specifically as asbestos disease doctors. Rather, they are known as oncologists, thoracic surgeons, respiratory therapists, and similar types of specialists.