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As a relatively small state, Rhode Island has few cases of asbestos-related diseases when compared with more populous states. However, the state has still seen its fair share of asbestos illnesses and deaths in proportion to the population. Exposure is largely due to asbestos in the workplace, including important Rhode Island industries like shipbuilding and textile production. Older buildings have also been a source of asbestos exposure.
If you were exposed to asbestos in Rhode Island and developed mesothelioma as a result, you can rely on the professional experience of a Rhode Island mesothelioma lawyer. A good legal team will help you win a settlement or benefit from an asbestos trust fund. Without this professional guidance, you could miss out on the compensation and justice you deserve.
Asbestos and Related Deaths in Rhode Island
Between 1999 and 2013, there were over 1,000 deaths in Rhode Island from illnesses associated with asbestos exposure. This includes 752 people who died from lung cancer, 188 who died from mesothelioma, and 100 who died from asbestosis. The tiny state has one documented site of natural asbestos located in the northeast corner. This has not posed a huge risk for residents, but any natural asbestos could contaminate air and soil if it is stirred up during construction projects.
Most cases of asbestos exposure and subsequent illness occurred on the job. Nearly every industrial workplace in the state has used asbestos at some point, putting workers at risk. In Rhode Island, textile mills have historically been an important industry, as has ship building. Unfortunately, these two industries are also a source of asbestos exposure. ANother source of exposure is older buildings. These older structures were commonly constructed using materials that contained asbestos. Now it poses risks to anyone living or working in buildings constructed before the 1980s.
As far back as the 1800s, Woonsocket, Rhode Island was known as “textile city.” The Blackstone River, with cascading rapids, made the perfect site for early mills, as the falling water could be used for power. Textiles became one of the most important industries in the state. Some of the textiles produced in these mills actually contained asbestos. Workers used machinery to spin out asbestos, weaving them into fabrics for fire protection.
While the industry has reduced in the last century, textile mills never left Rhode Island. Over the years, workers were exposed to asbestos through the textiles, machinery used to make them, and contained in the buildings themselves.
As a coastal state, shipping and shipbuilding have been an important part of Rhode Island’s history. Although the state only has a short strip of coast, it has been a big player in ports, shipping, and the making and repairing of ships. Especially around World War II, shipbuilding typically involved asbestos materials. For a long time, asbestos was used in almost every component of a ship, largely to provide fire proofing and insulation, but also adding strength and durability without adding much weight
U.S. Navy veterans have some of the highest rates of mesothelioma. This is largely due to working with and around asbestos on naval vessels. Shipyard workers in Rhode Island, both military and civilian, were exposed to asbestos for years. The result has been high numbers of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diagnosis, sometimes not occurring until decades after initial exposure.
Schools and Public Buildings
Asbestos was also heavily used in construction, and many older buildings are still laced with this dangerous mineral. However, this asbestos is not always hazardous. As long as the asbestos remains contained and undisturbed it will not release dangerous fibers into the air. Unfortunately, there have been incidents of public buildings, including schools, where asbestos was not properly maintained. As a result, both children and adults were at risk of getting sick.
One such incident occurred at a Department of Education building. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was called to address asbestos concerns. Inspectors found friable asbestos around the boilers and insulating furnaces and pipes inside the building. There were also asbestos fibers in the air. In 1990, it was discovered that three schools put teachers and students at risk of asbestos exposure for over a year. Old tiles had been ripped up without consideration for asbestos and caused the schools to shut down for cleanup.
Other Sites in Rhode Island with Asbestos
In addition to these specific industries, there have been many other sources of asbestos exposure in Rhode Island. A few known to have put workers and others in harm’s way are:
- Narragansett Electric Lighting company, Narragansett and Providence
- Union Railroad Company, Providence
- S. Naval Air Station, Quonset Point
- Allied Chemical, Providence
- Armstrong Contracting and Supply Corporation, Cranston
- Quincy Dye Works, Woonsocket
- Newport Naval Base, Newport
- Owens Corning, Aston
Rhode Island Asbestos Laws
The Department of Health in Rhode Island is responsible for administering laws, both state and federal, to manage the handling and disposal of asbestos. The state’s Asbestos Control Program is responsible for approving contractors for certification as asbestos abatement professionals. Only these certified contractors can work on asbestos projects. They must also notify the state at least ten days before beginning an asbestos project. Removal of asbestos from a work site is guided by strict rules, including the use of filters, protective gear, and wetting asbestos. The Program is also responsible for finding and removing asbestos from schools and other public buildings.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations on asbestos-related lawsuits in Rhode Island is only three years. That means if you were exposed to asbestos and became sick as a result, you only have three years from the time of diagnosis to file a lawsuit against those you believe responsible. While this may seem like a lot of time, it can go by faster than you think. Therefore, it is important to act as soon as possible after you receive a diagnosis. Likewise, the statute of limitations on wrongful death cases related to asbestos is three years.
Finding a Rhode Island Mesothelioma Lawyer
The most important step you can take is to find a good Rhode Island mesothelioma lawyer to work with you. Without this professional knowledge and experience, you will find the path to justice complex and confusing. To find the right legal team, look for recommendations from your doctors or others in the mesothelioma community. Look for a lawyer who has successfully won settlements for other clients. This person will be your best chance for getting justice and recovering damages.
Page Written by Rod De Llano, Esquire
Rod De Llano was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Economics, and earned a law degree from the University of Texas. After working for an international law firm for several years, Rod formed a law firm dedicated to representing persons injured by exposure to asbestos products. For over 20 years, Rod has fought for persons diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. His clients have recovered over $1 billion over the years.