Asbestos Insurance–No Relief in Sight

While it appears that the amount of asbestos litigation has leveled off, the fact is that the economic, social, and medical costs of nearly one hundred years of asbestos use will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
This is according to three different studies commissioned by the insurance industry. The actuarial firm of Millman USA has predicted that the number of asbestos claims in the U.S. will eventually reach over 1 million, and the ultimate costs could go as high as $275 billion. The worst of it is that the asbestos legacy of the twentieth century remains with us; industry experts estimate that as many as 1.3 million construction and demolition workers continue to be exposed to asbestos-containing materials in drywall, HVAC systems, old flooring, wall insulation, and more. At the recent Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s annual conference in Detroit, ADAO executive director and keynote speaker Linda Reinstein said: “We still have homes, offices, hospitals with asbestos; we have underground infrastructure, sewers and tunnels that are built with asbestos… it’s everywhere, in products and even kids’ toys.”

Asbestos disease specialist Dr. Michael R. Harbut added that currently, 10,000 people in the U.S. die every year from asbestos disease (compare this to the roughly 3,000 victims lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001). This number is only expected to rise. Because of the lengthy latency period–the time between initial exposure and the onset of symptoms–Harbut predicted that the number of asbestos victims would continue to grow for the next ten years. Meanwhile, there are still as many as 400,000 private homes and residences that still have asbestos-containing materials lurking in their walls, floors, attics, and more. Harbut pointed out that it takes only a single fiber to start the chain of reactions that lead to the formation of a malignant tumor. Unlike people, corporations are immortal. Although thousands of companies have gone “bankrupt” over asbestos litigation, virtually all of them manage to survive in one form or another. Even the infamous Johns-Manville, one of the first companies to be successfully sued over asbestos exposure, continues to operate as a subsidiary of Berkshire-Hathaway–the core business of which is, oddly enough, insurance…