Rhode Island is also known as The Ocean State as around 14% of its total area is on the water's edge. As the smallest state and the second most densely populated, it ranks highly for health care (8th out of the 50 states) and has an economy that relies heavily on manufacturing—often involving heavy levels of asbestos.
Mesothelioma Cases in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S. and ranks 38th for mesothelioma and asbestos-related deaths. One natural asbestos deposit is located in Cumberland near Diamond Hill, but because it was never mined, it has never been a cause for real concern. However, the main culprit for mesothelioma-related deaths is linked to the Rhode Island’s third-largest industry—manufacturing.
Between 1999-2013, there were 1,038 asbestos-related deaths in Rhode Island—188 of these were due to mesothelioma. Rhode Island’s mesothelioma mortality rate is around 11 people per million, annually.
While there’s no mesothelioma treatment unit in Rhode Island, neighboring Massachusetts has the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both of which have specialized departments for this rare form of cancer.
Before modern asbestos laws came into place, asbestos could be found in almost any industry around Rhode Island. Mines, oil refineries, manufacturers, repair shops, power plants and refineries were the most common offenders. But whether within the skeleton of a building or inside the machinery used to fix a car, many Rhode Island residents will have been exposed to asbestos unknowingly.
Asbestos Use in Rhode Island
The workplace was the most common environment for Rhode Island residents to become exposed to asbestos.Many Rhode Island schools were built using asbestos materials, which put both staff and students in danger. New regulations under the 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) mean that schools must have asbestos management procedures and regular inspections.
Another industry that put residents at risk was manufacturing. Providence, Rhode Island’s capital city, has been an industrial hub for decades. It’s renowned for creating products including textiles and silverware. Large corporations including Halkyard Manufacturing Company and Biltmore Textiles used asbestos in their facilities and equipment, which meant that their employees were potentially inhaling asbestos fibers on a daily basis.
The Newport Naval Base has always been an important naval port. Since it opened in 1900, it has served as an ideal location to refuel in Rhode Island. But like any military hubs in that period, a vast amount of asbestos was used in the building of the vessels.
The Newport Naval Base is over 1,000 acres in size, but one area in particular was also used as landfill. Waste often included asbestos, which began to contaminate the surrounding land and water, putting residents in the bay at tremendous risk.
Other areas of the naval yard and surrounding coastline were used for shipbuilding and maintenance. Historically, asbestos could be found anywhere on a ship, but leftover asbestos fibers could also carry in the air long after the ships had docked. It even put those building the ships and working in the shipyards at risk. Herreshoff Boatyard and Wickford Shipyard in Bristol were renowned sites for containing asbestos in the construction and repair of some ships. Shipbuilding is now seen as one of the most dangerous jobs regarding asbestos exposure.
In 1920, Rhode Island was the only state to reject the 18th Amendment, which banned the manufacturing and sale of alcohol. There are many breweries in Rhode Island that are praised for their established history, but the older buildings (and older equipment) are more than likely to contain asbestos.
Breweries including Narragansett and Management in Cranston were known to have used asbestos in the past, but new regulations mean that they are regularly checked to ensure no workers are at risk.
Asbestos was a conventional building material before the dangers were apparent, and as mesothelioma can take between 20-50 years to develop, we still don’t know how many people were put in jeopardy.
Rhode Island Asbestos Laws and Regulations
The State of Rhode Island Department of Health is now responsible for protecting the public against asbestos exposure. They have worked hard to develop procedures to ensure any remaining asbestos is destroyed safely. They’ve prioritized schools as the first buildings to be checked for fibers.
The local Environmental Protection Agency also monitor this, due to the fact that young children could, potentially, have been put at risk. The DoH have also identified hazardous buildings, schools and areas in the state and are working to get rid of the asbestos.
Whenever asbestos is found in Rhode Island, it must be removed and disposed of using strict procedures. Furthermore, professionals removing the asbestos must be certified and hold an accredited license for asbestos training.
If businesses today fail to comply with the regulations, there are stiff penalties in place. If you have already been exposed to asbestos through work, personal injury negligence and product liability law will allow you to claim compensation. Millions of dollars have been gained through settlements over the past decade or so.
Rhode Island Statute of Limitations on Asbestos Claims
Once you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is a limited window to file a lawsuit. In legal terms, this is called a statute of limitations, and each state has their own laws regarding legal timeframes.
In Rhode Island, you must file a claim within 3 years from your diagnosis date. If a mesothelioma patient dies before being able to proceed with a claim, there are an additional 3 years in which the family can file a lawsuit for wrongful death.
Retaining a Rhode Island Mesothelioma Lawyer
The dangers of asbestos were only realized in the 1970s, and at this point, there were no laws to regulate the toxic material. Today there are many laws surrounding asbestos, and many victims can claim compensation due to illness, loss of work or death. To proceed with your case, it is essential that you seek a lawyer who specializes in mesothelioma.
For more information on asbestos exposure and claims in Rhode Island, contact our Justice Support team today.