South Dakota has been a key area of agriculture for decades. Since the Industrial Revolution the state has diversified and is now also known for its manufacturing. This brought lots of jobs to the area, particularly Sioux Falls (South Dakota's largest city with a population of 174,000). Unfortunately, it also resulted in ongoing asbestos use and subsequent illnesses.
Mesothelioma Cases in South Dakota
Compared with other states in the U.S., South Dakota has significantly fewer cases of mesothelioma due to the lack of asbestos exposure. The toxic material has never been widespread in South Dakota, but it is present in older buildings, agricultural machinery and industrial structures.
South Dakota is ranked as 41st in the country for mesothelioma deaths, with 94 deaths in total between 1993-2013. When looking at the U.S. as a whole, this number is much lower than many other states. Yet, several treatment centers in South Dakota offer specialized help for those suffering from mesothelioma.
Asbestos Use in South Dakota
While South Dakota’s asbestos usage may be less than other states, hundreds of commercial and military workers were exposed to the material through their day-to-day jobs. Rapid City was one of the areas most severely hit due to the amount of industrial activity in the area.
Coal companies, air forces and cement plants are among the industries that used a lot of asbestos in an attempt to ‘protect’ their workers from fires. Unknowingly, they were subjecting themselves (and others) to even more health concerns down the line.
One of the primary industries for concern was the four hydroelectric power plants in the South Dakota region. Power plants all over the U.S. have come under fire for the use of asbestos as it was seen as a safe material to use for protection. The power plants also used mechanical turbines that contained asbestos, and employees working with the turbines would have inhaled these fibers when they became airborne.
Automotive and Manufacturing
Mechanics were also at risk, as many pieces of equipment used for vehicle repair contained the toxic materials to prevent friction. The manufacturing industry is known to have used excessive amounts of asbestos. As machines become older, they begin to deteriorate and release deadly fibers into the air.
Ellsworth Air Force Base
Perhaps the most notorious place for asbestos usage was the Ellsworth Air Force Base near Box Elder. As South Dakota’s second-largest employer, the base has exposed thousands of military workers to asbestos.
Before the dangers of the material were known, the U.S. military used the substance a lot for insulation and fire resistance. It could also be used in weapons, housing and vehicles. Today, the Air Force has a rigorous asbestos management plan to eliminate exposure. Though, after years of working in such an environment, it’s likely that many past workers will have some form of asbestos-related health issues.
South Dakota Asbestos Laws and Regulations
As mesothelioma is not as prevalent in South Dakota as some other states, they do not have a state-approved Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plan. Instead, they follow federal standards and regulations to ensure that workers are protected.
South Dakota businesses interested in learning more about asbestos dangers and how to avoid exposing employees, can attend a course at South Dakota State University—an on-site program designed to provide recommendations to mitigate potential dangers.
Today, South Dakota is doing all they can to rid the state of asbestos remnants. The South Dakota Department of Environmental and Natural Resources is responsible for overseeing the training of asbestos professionals and granting them licenses. Only state-approved asbestos inspectors may remove the material. To qualify, they must also undergo a 3-5-day training session and pass an exam. The exam must be taken every 3 years to ensure professionals are keeping up to date with new procedures.
The removal and transportation of asbestos must be done by certified asbestos professionals. Asbestos waste is strictly deposited in one of 13 accredited landfills and must abide by specific laws to ensure that the contents do not contaminate land or become airborne.
Retaining a South Dakota Mesothelioma Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s essential to file a lawsuit as soon as you can. Victims of mesothelioma through asbestos exposure can usually hold their employer accountable for the disease. However, it is essential that you find a lawyer who specializes in this field to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
From the date of diagnosis, you have 3 years to file a personal injury lawsuit in South Dakota. If you have lost a loved one due to asbestos exposure, family members can also file a wrongful death lawsuit 3 years from the date of death.
Mesothelioma is an expensive disease to treat, and compensation will cover the costs of loss of work, travel expenses and potential surgery. Some extreme mesothelioma settlements in South Dakota have reached $2.4 million.
For more information on compensation for asbestos exposure in South Dakota, contact our Justice Support Team today.