Hawaii (HI) Asbestos Information:
Although geologically active, Hawaii differs from the continental U.S. in that its terrain was not formed from folding action resulting from the collision of tectonic plates, but from the building action of volcanoes.
As a result, Hawaii is unique in that it is one of the few places in the world that has no naturally-occurring asbestos deposits. Hawaii does, however, have two military bases and two major oil refineries.
It has long been suspected that people in marine industries – including the US Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine – run a significantly higher risk of asbestos-related disease. This was recently proven in a study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. The study, which followed 4,700 subjects employed at a Coast Guard shipyard between 1950 and 1963, showed a “small but significant” increase in asbestos illnesses in those subjects as compared to the population at large.
Pearl Harbor is one of the larger and more important U.S. Naval bases, and has had oil refining capacity in the past as well. Both seagoing vessels and oil refining equipment are known to be associated with asbestos insulation and protective gear. Many Navy veterans have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and/or asbestosis.
It should be pointed out that military exposure to asbestos often takes place in enclosed places such as areas below the deck of a ship, where such fibers are likely to become concentrated.
Oil refineries are among those industries in which fire is a constant hazard. Ironically, oil refinery workers often were poisoned by asbestos that was incorporated into the very gear and clothing that was designed to protect them, such as fire suits and gloves. When these became worn or ripped, asbestos fibers could be released into the air and inhaled, resulting in a variety of asbestos-related illnesses.
In the entire state of Hawaii during the 20-year period between 1979 and 1999, there were 138 recorded deaths from asbestos related disease, 79 of which were from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma and 59 from the asbestos disease asbestosis.
As is typical, mortality rates were higher in heavily populated, urbanized areas. Asbestos victims were most numerous in Honolulu County, accounting for 114 of the recorded deaths statewide. The next highest was Hawaii County, with 12; 10 of these were related to malignant mesothelioma.
Kauai and Maui accounted for six victims each. On both islands, mesothelioma victims outnumbered asbestosis victims two to one.
Mesothelioma, while debilitating and invariably fatal, is far less common than asbestosis. Why should it so frequently be more prevalent among asbestos victims?
There is no single answer to this. It is known that a great deal of asbestos insulation used in sea going vessels contained amphibole fibers, which are hard and spear-like; they are not more deadly than the softer and more commonly used chrysotile fibers, but have been demonstrated to work faster when it comes to causing cancer.
The other problem lies in detection. All respiratory diseases exhibit nearly identical symptoms in their early stages, but a mesothelioma diagnosis is especially difficult; therefore, it is usually not diagnosed until it in an advanced stage.
Also, unlike asbestosis, mesothelioma is malignant and can spread to many places in the body, although it usually affects the pleural lining of the lungs, commonly known as pleural mesothelioma. Once it has started, it is nearly impossible to stop. On the other hand, asbestosis’ progression usually stops once the patient is removed from the environment in which asbestos exposure occurs.
Hawaii (HI) Job Sites At Risk From Asbestos Exposure:
Over the course of the last century, hundreds of thousands of workers were exposed to asbestos while on the job – and for the most part, they were not warned. Below is a list of Job sites from the state of Hawaii (HI) where workers were potentially and unnecessarily put at risk:
Pearl Harbor Shipyard: Pearl Harbor, HI
Hawaii (HI) Mesothelioma Lawyer & Legal Resources:
Hawaii is not a state that has seen a significant amount of mesothelioma legislation. For that matter, Hawaii has not seen a significant amount of legislation regarding any asbestos-related disease. In addition, a search of the Hawaii State Judiciary cases (the equivalent of a state Supreme Court in Hawaii) turns up no cases for either Hawaii mesothelioma lawsuits specifically or asbestos generally.
Despite the lack of litigation at the superior court level, mesothelioma cases have been litigated in Hawaii’s lower courts by Hawaii mesothelioma lawyers. Significantly, a number of people developed mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos in shipyards and other high-risk industries throughout Hawaii. In an effort to prove that the surge in mesothelioma diagnoses was caused by the asbestos used in the construction and repair of naval ships, Hawaii mesothelioma lawyers went after the shipyards. The shipyards, meanwhile, contended that inhaling the biogenic silica fibers associated with sugar cane processing caused the employees, many of whom had previously or since worked in the sugar cane industry, to contract the disease. Tests, however, proved that not a single mesothelioma diagnosis could be linked to the sugar cane industry.
It should be noted that environmental concerns such as those related to asbestos are of particular issue in Hawaii, a state that is known for its preservation of its natural resources. Hoping to use this fact to improve the legal situation for mesothelioma victims, Hawaii mesothelioma law firms tried for several years to get the state to ban the use of asbestos, claiming that Hawaii was a natural sanctuary for a multitude of wildlife species and that asbestos in the air around the shipyards would contribute to ecological disruption. These Hawaii mesothelioma lawyers were, however, unable to offer sufficient evidence to convince lawmakers to enact the ban.
Another asbestos-related issue in Hawaii was the 2005 finding that a local school had asbestos, forcing the school to be shut down for five days for inspection and clean-up. Although it will take years to know if mesothelioma will result from the exposure, one teacher has promised to keep the names of the students exposed to asbestos on file. Locations other than schools in which people may be at risk from exposure to asbestos include the numerous military bases located in Hawaii. In 2000, for example, 600 soldiers had to be evacuated from Schofield Barracks due to asbestos exposure.
Those interested in filing a Hawaii mesothelioma lawsuit or hiring a Hawaii mesothelioma lawyer should know that the statute of limitations for personal injury law in Hawaii is two years with a discovery rule that states that this amount of time begins when the problem (in this case the mesothelioma) either was discovered or should have been discovered. Furthermore, if a personal injury lawsuit is begun by a mesothelioma victim but the victim dies before the case is concluded, a family member will be appointed as the special administrator and the case will continue, although the ultimate amount of settlement may be different. Wrongful death cases fall under the same statute of limitations and follow the same discovery rule with the time period beginning at date of death.
There is no specific statute about asbestos in Hawaii; however the state’s laws are generally considered to be quite favorable to asbestos victims. It should be noted that 12 major companies in Hawaii have filed for bankruptcy and so may not pay out on mesothelioma claims. In Hawaiian mesothelioma lawsuits against those companies that have not filed for bankruptcy, most often are settled without having to go to trial.