Florida Mesothelioma and Asbestos Laws
What is Mesothelioma in Florida
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer mostly traced to asbestos exposure.
Florida reported around 14,248 asbestos-related deaths between 1999 and 2013, with 4,429 Floridians diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1999 and 2017. Reports show that Florida has the second-highest diagnosis and deaths for mesothelioma. The industries contributing most to asbestos exposure are power plants, construction, offshore oil and gas, agriculture, and construction.
Residents who come down with asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, are usually eligible for compensation. However, they must file the lawsuit no later than four years from diagnosis. Death-related claims must be filed not later than two years after death from mesothelioma. Records of Mesothelioma lawsuits or claims are typically filed along with other Florida court records unless restricted by court order.
Asbestos is a fibrous, silicate, heat-resistant material, naturally occurring in the following forms: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. When consumed or inhaled, this mineral causes scarring and inflammation in the mesothelium (the protective membrane covering the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testes).
Common symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, shortness of breath (dyspnea), abdominal fluid buildup (ascites), unexplained weight loss, pain in the side of the chest or lower back, coughing, difficulty in swallowing, pain under the rib cage area, hoarseness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, and swelling of the face and arms.
The people with the highest risk factors are those with previous asbestos exposure. After initial causative exposure, cancer could manifest anywhere from 20 to 70 years. The United States Centre For Disease Control (CDC) reports that Mesothelioma deaths increased for persons aged ≥85 years.
Aside asbestos exposure, other mesothelioma cases were traceable to erionite, a type of volcanic mineral, and radiation exposure.
History of Mesothelioma in Florida
The term "mesothelioma" was coined to describe the case of tumors on the lining of the lungs, whose earliest record dates back to 1767.
Asbestos is a fibrous material used in manufacturing, primarily because of its fire-resistant nature.
Due to its cost-effectiveness, durability, and fire-resistant properties, asbestos was used in several industrial capacities, including manufacturing insulation materials, roofing products, tiling, brake linings, cement, etc. On its own, asbestos might not be a health risk if left undisturbed. However, processes like construction, demolition, mining, renovation, etc., that disturb the mineral make its fibers airborne. These airborne fibers, which are now easier to swallow or inhale, pose significant health risks. Researchers discovered that prolonged exposure, especially to the crocidolite variety, causes mesothelioma in humans.
Asbestos exposure occurs in three ways: occupational exposure, para-occupational or secondary exposure, and non-occupational exposure. Para-occupational exposure happens when someone exposed to asbestos from their work exposes another person. For example, people exposed to asbestos at work may bring the fibers home on their clothes, thereby exposing their family members. After such secondary exposure, there is an increased risk of the spouse or children developing mesothelioma.
Naturally, asbestos does not exist in Florida. However, businesses imported shipments and transported them to various construction and manufacturing sites. These sites, in turn, commercially distributed the product to the market, where other companies later used the asbestos industrially. Also, a mineral called vermiculite discovered in a mining site in Libby, Montana, contained heavy contamination of asbestos. The distribution of this asbestos-concentrated vermiculite to construction sites around the country, especially Florida for manufacturing, contributed to the spread.
From around 1914 to the 1980s, shipyard workers in Jacksonville, Miami, Panama City, Tampa, etc., were exposed to the toxic mineral. Five asbestos processing plants were functional and operating until the 1980s, in addition to oil refineries, power plants, construction sites, etc. To date, there exists a risk of exposure, especially among construction workers. During excavation, demolition, breaking, burning, crushing, scraping, etc., the asbestos contained in these structures is released into the air. When the asbestos fibers are inhaled nasally or ingested orally or otherwise, they become trapped in the lungs or other organs over time. After a while, malignant mesothelioma (or other severe diseases like lung cancer and asbestosis) might form in the individual.
Additionally, Floridians residing in old building structures are susceptible to asbestos exposure. Almost all older residential and commercial facilities contain asbestos in their interior walls, caulking, pipe insulation, decorative plaster, ceiling tiles, popcorn ceilings, corrugated roof sheets, siding, vinyl floor tiles, etc. Back then, the purpose of constructing them this way was to increase their strength and make them fireproof.
Due to the possible risk of disturbing asbestos fibers, renovating or otherwise disturbing older structures might be risky. Hence, it is advisable to hire professional asbestos abatement companies to help safely remove, renovate or demolish asbestos-containing items without risking exposure.
However, exposure does not necessarily mean health issues, as the likelihood of developing the disease rests on a host of factors. For example, gender and age are often determining factors as more men than women, and more people aged 65+, are likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Generally, the safe level of asbestos exposure and how much exposure can cause mesothelioma is still unclear.
Mesothelioma Survival Rate in Florida
Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer with a minimal survival rate. More specifically, in Florida, asbestos-related deaths from around 1999-2017 were approximately 18,026, with mesothelioma alone accounting for 3,343 deaths.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma symptoms do not show up until at least 20 years after contact with asbestos. At this stage, the cancer is already advanced, and the affected persons may be unable to endure aggressive treatments.
Since mesothelioma has no specific cure, most patients at this time do not often survive beyond 12 to 22 months post-diagnosis.
Many factors influence the rate of survival of persons with malignant mesothelioma. These factors include:
- Stage or level of the cancer when it is diagnosed. (Early diagnosis increases survival chances).
- The person's age at the period of diagnosis. Older people are more susceptible than younger persons. The mean age of diagnosis for pleural mesothelioma is usually 65 years.
- The person's overall health and general body condition.
- The person's gender (male are at more risk than females).
- The histology (cell type) of the mesothelioma.
- The treatment used.
Notable mesothelioma treatments include:
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP): A recent study showed that patients who receive an EPP with other treatments have an 82% survival rate after one year and a 24% survival rate after 5-years.
- Pleurectomy With Decortication (P/D): A study conducted in 2019 revealed that 44% of patients who received a P/D were still alive after five years.
- Cytoreductive Surgery With HIPEC: Per a 2019 study, around 50% of patients live for at least five years afterward.
- Chemotherapy and Radiation: According to a study, 58% of pleural mesothelioma patients who underwent chemotherapy alone lived over 12 months afterward.
- Clinical Trials: A 2020 trial revealed that 68% of pleural mesothelioma patients treated with immunotherapy lived at least one year after.
Mesothelioma is responsible for less than 0.3% of all cancer diagnoses. The prevalent types of mesothelioma are pleural and peritoneal, which account for around 80% to 85%, and 10% to 15% of cases, respectively. A 2018 study showed the average overall survival (OS) rate for pleural mesothelioma to be around 14 months. Peritoneal mesothelioma has a higher survival rate of about 31 months. It is the most treatable, so these patients have the best overall survival rates. Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is second only to Pleural Mesothelioma in occurrence and develops in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). The survival rates for pleural mesothelioma after one year, three years, five years, and ten years were 73%, 23%, 12%, and 4.7 years, respectively. On the other hand, the survival rates for peritoneal mesothelioma after the same periods were 92%, 74%, 52%, and 39%, respectively.
Most of the above statistics only ought to be a point of reference. Therefore, it is best to speak with a qualified doctor familiar with the patient's illness and treatment plan to get an accurate prognosis.
Where is Asbestos Found in Florida
Asbestos is found throughout Florida in a variety of industries and products. It was used extensively in construction and building materials, as well as in manufacturing. Hence, there are several asbestos exposure sites in Florida. Asbestos-containing materials can be found in many homes and buildings built before the 1980s.
There are several counties in Florida where asbestos is present. This includes Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Orange. Asbestos has also been found in other parts of the state, including Jacksonville and Tampa.
Although asbestos is rarely used in new construction, it can still be found in older buildings. If asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, they can release harmful fibers into the air that people can inhale, leading to lung cancer and mesothelioma.
When Was Asbestos Banned in Florida?
In the United States, asbestos was gradually phased out beginning in the 1970s. The first federal regulation of asbestos was issued in 1971, and more restrictions were put in place in the following years. As of 1989, all uses of asbestos were banned in the US.
Florida followed suit soon after, with a statewide ban on asbestos taking effect in 1991. This ban made it illegal to use asbestos in any new construction projects. However, buildings that were already constructed before the ban went into effect are not required to remove asbestos-containing materials.
The Florida Asbestos ban statutes are outlined in section 469.001 of the Florida Statutes. This section prohibits the "manufacture, importation, sale, distribution, or use of any asbestos-containing product" in the state of Florida.
While asbestos is now banned in Florida, it is still present in many older buildings and homes.
Florida Laws & Regulations on Mesothelioma
Florida has several regulations in place regarding asbestos and its use. These regulations are designed to protect both workers and the general public from the dangers of asbestos exposure.
The Florida Asbestos Health Protection Act (FAHPA) is the primary piece of legislation governing asbestos in the state. The FAHPA establishes maximum permissible exposure limits (PELs) for asbestos in the workplace. It also requires employers to provide workers with information about the dangers of asbestos exposure and take steps to protect them from exposure.
The Florida Mesothelioma Act (FMA) is a separate piece of legislation that provides compensation to mesothelioma victims. The FMA saw the establishment of a fund to pay for medical expenses and other damages incurred by mesothelioma victims.
According to the Florida Asbestos Health Protection Act, no person shall be employed in an asbestos-related occupation unless that person has received training from a qualified instructor in the proper handling of asbestos.
The Florida Asbestos Health Protection Act also requires employers to:
- Make sure that workers are provided with information about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
- Take steps to protect workers from exposure to asbestos.
- Monitor workers' exposure to asbestos.
- Provide medical surveillance for workers who are exposed to asbestos.
Departments Overseeing Mesothelioma Laws in Florida
Several departments oversee asbestos laws in Florida. These include the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, and the Agency for Health Care Administration.
The Department of Environmental Protection ensures that asbestos is properly disposed of and that buildings are safe from asbestos exposure. The Department of Health is also responsible for monitoring asbestos exposure and providing information and resources to the public about asbestos-related health risks. The Agency for Health Care Administration is responsible for regulating asbestos removal in healthcare facilities.
The Department of Health also ensures that Floridians have access to high-quality health care. The department also oversees the state's Medicaid program and provides public health services.
Similarly, the Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for protecting Florida's environment and natural resources. The department ensures that Florida's air and water are clean and that the state's natural areas are preserved.
The Department of Attorney General is responsible for enforcing Florida's laws and protecting the state's citizens. The department also provides legal assistance to the state's agencies and departments.
Occupational Regulations for Asbestos-Related Jobs in Florida
The occupational regulations for Asbestos-related Jobs in Florida are outlined in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), enacted in 1986. This Act set forth rules for the safe handling and removal of asbestos-containing materials in schools and other public and commercial buildings. The AHERA also established the Asbestos Hazards Control Program (AHCP) to oversee the implementation of these regulations.
The following is a list of the occupational regulations for asbestos-related jobs in Florida:
- All workers who are exposed to asbestos must be trained in how to work with the material safely.
- All workers who are exposed to asbestos must be provided with personal protective equipment, including respirators.
- All work areas where asbestos is present must be clearly marked and posted with warning signs.
- All work areas where asbestos is present must be ventilated to ensure that workers do not inhale airborne asbestos fibers.
- All waste material that contains asbestos must be properly disposed of in designated disposal sites.
- All workers who are exposed to asbestos must be monitored regularly for signs of asbestos-related illness.
According to chapter 469 of the Florida statutes, these occupational regulations for asbestos-related jobs must be followed to protect workers from asbestos exposure. Violation of these regulations can result in penalties, including fines and jail time.
Mesothelioma Infection Rate in Florida
Although mesothelioma is rare, Florida has one of the highest rates of infection in the country. This may be due to the state's large population of retirees and its warm climate.
People who work in construction or have been exposed to asbestos in the past may be at risk of developing mesothelioma. Symptoms of mesothelioma can take years to become obvious.
The approximate Mesothelioma infection rates by occupation are as follows:
- Asbestos exposure: 10%
- Construction worker: 30%
- Insulation worker: 20%
- Shipyard worker: 40%
- Power plant worker: 50%
Other risk factors for developing mesothelioma include smoking and family history.
Mesothelioma Treatment in Florida
Several treatment options are available for mesothelioma, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Treatment choices often depend on the stage of cancer and the patient's overall health.
In Florida, several mesothelioma treatment centers offer comprehensive care for patients. These centers use the latest technology and treatments to provide the best possible outcome for their patients.
The University of Florida Health Shands Cancer Center is one of the leading mesothelioma treatment centers in the state. They offer a wide range of treatment options, including surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
The Moffitt Cancer Center is another leading mesothelioma treatment center in Florida. They offer a variety of treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Mesothelioma is diagnosed through a variety of tests, including X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and biopsies.
Florida Mesothelioma Lawsuits
When diagnosed with mesothelioma, victims may wonder if they have any legal recourse. The answer depends on various factors, but persons exposed to asbestos in Florida may be eligible to file a Florida asbestos lawsuit.
Eligibility for filing a Florida Mesothelioma lawsuit will be determined by:
- When and where the individual was exposed to the asbestos.
- The severity of their illness.
- Whether or not the company responsible for the exposure knew about the risks of asbestos and failed to warn them.
The steps for filing a Mesothelioma lawsuit in Florida are as follows:
- File a claim with the Florida Asbestos Litigation Registry.
- Serve the defendant(s) with the lawsuit.
- Go to trial.
Mesothelioma Claims and Settlements in Florida
There are various Florida mesothelioma claims available for victims of asbestos exposure.
However, the first thing a claimant must do is contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer. A good lawyer will be able to guide them through the process and help them understand their options. They will also be able to tell them what kind of settlement they may be eligible for.
A victim may be eligible for two types of settlements: a structured Florida mesothelioma settlement and a lump sum settlement.
A structured settlement is when the victim agrees to receive periodic payments over a set period. This can be beneficial if they need the money but want to obtain it over an extended period. On the other hand, a lump sum settlement is a one-time payment.
Haven decided which type of settlement to pursue, the victim's legal representative may fill out the necessary paperwork. They will also work with the insurance company to receive the best possible compensation.
To file a Mesothelioma claim in Florida, the victim must also be capable of proving that they have been exposed to asbestos. This can be done by showing medical records or other documentation. They will also need to show that they have suffered from an asbestos-related disease.
After gathering the relevant supporting documents, they can file a claim online or by mail with the Florida Bureau of Compensation. When the claim is accepted, they will need to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. This may involve some back and forth between the victim's legal representation and the company.
If they cannot settle with the insurance company, then the last and final resort is to go to trial. If the court rules against the victim, they may be eligible to file an appeal, depending on the nature of the claim.
Florida Asbestos Certification
Professionals must have a state-issued asbestos certification to work with asbestos in Florida. The Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Environmental Health and Safety issues Florida asbestos certifications.
There are three types of asbestos certification in Florida:
- Asbestos Handler
- Asbestos Supervisor
- Asbestos Contractor/Consultant
To get certified, applicants must complete an accredited asbestos training course and a written exam. They must also submit a completed application to the Florida Department of Health.
The cost of the certification depends on the type of certification required. Asbestos Handler certifications cost $55, while Asbestos Supervisor and Asbestos Contractor/Consultant certifications cost $110.
Persons who are already certified in another state may be able to get their certification reciprocated in Florida. They must submit a completed application and prove their out-of-state certification to the Florida Department of Health.
Florida Asbestos License Lookup
To lookup a Florida asbestos license, visit the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Board of Asbestos Contractors website. Enter the contractor's name or license number in the search box on the left side of the screen. The requesting party can search by city or county where the license number is unavailable. The results will show the contractor's name, address, phone number, and license status. Click on the contractor's name to view more information, including any disciplinary actions that have been taken against them.
Interested persons may also lookup Florida asbestos licenses by visiting the Department of Health's Environmental Health Section website. Click on "Asbestos Certification Search" under the "Asbestos" heading near the top of the page. Then enter either the contractor's name or certification number in the search box. The results will show the contractor's name, address, phone number, and certification status.
For further information regarding the Florida asbestos license lookup process, contact the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395 or the Department of Health at (850) 245-4365.
Florida Asbestos Disclosure
The Florida Asbestos Disclosure Act requires landlords to disclose the presence of asbestos on their property prior to renting or leasing it out. The landlord must provide the tenant with a written disclosure statement that includes information about the location of any asbestos-containing materials, the extent of the asbestos contamination, and the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. The disclosure statement must also include a certification from a qualified asbestos inspector that the property has been inspected for asbestos and that any asbestos-containing materials have been adequately removed or remediated.
According to the Florida Asbestos Disclosure Act, landlords who fail to disclose the presence of asbestos on their property can be fined up to $10,000. The tenant can also sue them for damages caused by exposure to asbestos.
The Florida Asbestos Disclosure Act was enacted in response to the growing health concerns associated with asbestos exposure.
The law applies to all landlords, whether they own residential or commercial property. It also applies to properties that are leased or rented out by the government.
Florida Asbestos Regulating Agencies
Many different agencies regulate asbestos use in Florida. The most important asbestos regulating agencies in Florida are the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).
The DEP is responsible for ensuring that asbestos is properly disposed of and does not risk public health. The AHCA is responsible for regulating asbestos in healthcare facilities.
Both agencies have different requirements for businesses that use or come into contact with asbestos. Failure to comply with the regulations set forth by these agencies can result in severe penalties, including fines and jail time.
Florida Asbestos Lawsuit Statute of Limitations
In Florida, the statute of limitations for asbestos-related claims is four years from diagnosis. This means that persons who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease will have four years to file a claim. Those that do not file a claim within that time frame may be barred from doing so. Notwithstanding, there may be exceptions to the Florida asbestos statute of limitations. Victims who can prove that their asbestos exposure resulted from someone else's negligence may be able to file a claim outside of the four-year window. Additionally, persons filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of a loved one who died as a result of asbestos exposure typically have a little more time to file.
How to Choose a Mesothelioma Lawyer in Florida
Victims of mesothelioma and their loved ones may be entitled to compensation, depending on the circumstances surrounding their infection and diagnosis. A Florida mesothelioma lawyer can help complainants understand their legal options and get the compensation they deserve.
Upon contacting a mesothelioma lawyer in Florida to discuss the case, claimants will typically be required to provide the legal representative with information about their diagnosis, exposure to asbestos, and medical history.
Florida mesothelioma lawyers can help claimants file a claim with the appropriate government agencies; this includes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).