Michigan boasts one of the most diverse economies in the United States. In the 20th century, it provided America with strong automobile, manufacturing, mining and shipbuilding industries. Today, tourism and IT also flourish. However, the Great Lakes State faces a significant problem with its history of asbestos exposure and a mesothelioma death rate that ranks well above the national average.
Mesothelioma Cases in Michigan
From 1999 to 2013, Michigan saw over 7,800 asbestos-caused deaths. Its rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 residents ranks in the top-12 nationwide percentile.
With its high rate of asbestos-related diagnoses, Michigan companies statewide are being ordered to pay millions of dollars in wrongful exposure damages to former employees and their families. Major auto manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are facing some of the largest claims and have established massive trust funds to pay out future lawsuits.
General Motors set up a trust worth $625 million in 2012, which has paid out not only past employees but also their family members who were exposed to asbestos second-hand when workers brought home the fibers on their clothes.
Asbestos Use in Michigan
Asbestos was used widely in the 1900s by many industries. Its heat-resistant nature made it suitable for use in pipes, machinery, insulation and automobile parts. It was also used in protective garments for laborers like sheet-metal workers who worked around high temperatures.
Unfortunately, Michigan’s prominent automobile sector leads the way in the state’s asbestos exposure in the past 100 years. Brakes, clutches, gaskets and other parts contained asbestos that was inhaled or ingested when the fibers became airborne. Employees who ground, sanded or repaired brakes are at higher risk of asbestos exposure and developing mesothelioma. Assembly lines only added to the spreading of asbestos in the workplace.
Michigan’s vast freshwater coastline made the state an important shipbuilding hub. Many shipbuilding ventures used asbestos for insulation, pipes, and other purposes, which were often installed with little ventilation and protective equipment for workers. Defoe Shipbuilding, which produced commercial, military and pleasure vessels on Saginaw Bay, is a known asbestos site.
Asbestos occurs naturally in Michigan, and several open deposit sites around the state were mined. Workers who mined handled and transported asbestos were at the highest risk of exposure. Since the fibers easily became airborne, employees in other departments of the mine were also at risk of exposure. Additionally, family members who came into direct contact with a miner were at risk of second-hand exposure.
Other Asbestos-Related Industries in Michigan
Other high-risk occupations for asbestos exposure in Michigan include:
- Oil workers
- Mechanics and auto inspectors
- Power plant technicians
- First responders
Employees who worked indirectly with asbestos or who occupied buildings made with asbestos-containing materials may also be at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Employees who worked at any of the following Michigan job sites may have been exposed to asbestos:
- Asbestos processing centers
- Steel mills and metalworks
- Oil refineries
- Construction and demolition sites
- Chemical plants
- Power plants
- Food processing facilities
- Docks and freight yards
- Old buildings that underwent major renovation
Michigan Asbestos Laws and Regulations
The Construction Safety and Health Division Asbestos Program oversees Michigan’s asbestos regulations.
The program is responsible for six key areas:
- Approving asbestos training courses
- Certifying workers
- Licensing abatement contractors
- Regulating abatement projects
- Conducting on-site inspections
- Managing asbestos materials in schools
Michigan residents must be aware of the statutes of limitation on asbestos claims for wrongful exposure. Mesothelioma patients have 3 years from the date of diagnosis. If filing a wrongful death claim, direct family members have 3 years from the date of death.
Retaining a Michigan Mesothelioma Lawyer
If you lived in Michigan at any point in your life and have since developed mesothelioma, you may have been wrongfully exposed to asbestos. An expert mesothelioma lawyer has the knowledge and resources to help you determine where you were exposed and to build a claim that earns you a rewarding settlement.
If you developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure in Michigan, contact our Justice Support Team today.