How Environmental Factors Can Cause Lung Cancer - According to go2foundation.org, as many as 237,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, claiming more lives annually than colorectal, pancreatic, breast, or prostate cancers. While lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, research for lung cancer receives the least amount of research funding. Although smoking is definitely a primary cause of smoking, as many as 20 percent of all those diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. have never smoked.
In fact, exposure to certain industrial substances can be directly responsible for lung cancer, including:
- Certain organic chemicals
- Radon gas
- Radiation exposure
- Air pollution
- Environmental tobacco smoke in nonsmokers
Lung cancer has been definitively linked to asbestos when it is unknowingly handled by those who work in a wide variety of trades. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be found in construction materials, insulation, paint, and automobiles, and is handled in such industries as: chemical plants, metal works, auto mechanics, construction, shipyards, power plants, the military, and oil refineries.
Radon gas is released from the normal decay of uranium, thorium, and radium, seeping up through the ground and diffusing into the air. While radon gas generally exists at low levels outdoors, in areas without adequate ventilation—like underground mines—radon can accumulate to levels that significantly increase the risk of lung cancer. Radon levels could be higher in homes that are well-insulated, tightly sealed, or built on soil rich in uranium, thorium, and radium. When radon decays, it gives off tiny radioactive particles that, when inhaled, can damage the cells lining the lungs. Long-term exposure to radon gas can lead to lung cancer, and, in fact, radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.
Arsenic in drinking water can also increase the risk of lung cancer. According to the USGS research, arsenic can be released into groundwater as a result of human activities, including mining, as well as the production of animal feed, wood preservatives, and pesticides. Dangerously high levels of arsenic have been found in drinking water wells in more than 25 states. In a national study of groundwater quality, the USGS found arsenic in nearly half of all the wells sampled at levels higher than allowed by the EPA. These high levels of arsenic were found in higher concentrations in the west than in the east. The greatest concern was in the Southwest, where concentrations of arsenic exceeded the allowable levels in 16 percent of water wells sampled.
Silica dust is found in some stones, rocks, sand, gravel, and clay and is typically found in bricks, tiles, concrete, and certain plastics. When these materials are worked on, silica is released as a fine dust that is harmful when inhaled into the lungs. Silica dust is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, therefore, can be breathed in without your knowledge. Exposure to silica dust can then lead to the development of lung cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer, however, radiation exposure in the chest therapy could raise your odds of lung cancer down the road, even more, if you’ve been a smoker for many years. Those who have had radiation therapy to the chest to treat breast cancer or Hodgkin’s Disease are at a higher risk for lung cancer—and even higher if the individual was young when receiving radiation therapy. Lung cancer can potentially take up to ten years to form following radiation exposure. Those who have had lung cancer have a higher risk of developing another lung cancer.
What is the FDA and EPA’s Stance on Carcinogens and Lung Cancer? According to the EPA, radon in the air is ubiquitous in our air and is found at certain levels in the indoor air of buildings, particularly in lower levels and basements. The EPA recommends if radon levels are 4 picocuries per liter or more in homes, that measures be taken to minimize the exposure to be below 2 picocuries per liter. The “average” indoor radon concentration in America’s homes is about 1.3 picocuries per liter, and the EPA bases its estimate of 21,000 radon-related lung cancers per year on levels higher than this average.
Arsenic has been classified as “carcinogenic to humans,” with the EPA maintaining an Integrated Risk Information System database that contains information on human health effects from exposure to toxins in the environment. The EPA has found that higher exposures to arsenic can lead to irritated lungs when breathed in while swallowing high levels of arsenic can cause many other problems, some of them fatal. The EPA limits the maximum level of arsenic allowed in U.S. drinking water to 10 micrograms per liter, or 10 parts per billion. While there are few federal limits for arsenic in foods, the FDA has issued guidance for the food industry on limits in certain foods, including infant rice cereals and apple juice.
Regarding silica dust, the EPA has established National Ambient Air Quality standards for certain pollutant particles, including crystalline silica dust. The EPA has established a standard of 150 µg/m3 as a 24-hour average. In the state of California, the OEHHA conducted a study of ambient silica health effects, developing an “inhalation reference exposure level,” although this is not a regulatory level. OSHA has issued permissible exposure levels of silica dust in the workplace, dictating that no employer shall subject an employee to exposure of airborne concentrations of silica dust in excess of 50 µg/m3 during any 8-hour period.
The EPA has a long history of regulating asbestos-containing materials, although asbestos has not been banned as it has in some countries. Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance, asbestos is used in building construction materials for insulation as well as for fire retardants, including roofing shingles and ceiling and floor tiles. Asbestos is also found in friction products like automobile clutches, brakes, and transmission parts, heat-resistant fabrics, gaskets, and coatings.
The EPA does require public school districts, non-profit schools (including charter schools), and schools affiliated with religious institutions to inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building materials and to prepare management plans that take action to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. Asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants registered under the EPA’s air toxics program—asbestos was identified as a hazardous pollutant in 1971. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are two of the primary diseases associated with asbestos exposure.
Are There Lung Cancer Lawsuits and How Do I Get Legal Help for My Lung Cancer? Most people associate lung cancer with smoking, but there can be many other causes of lung cancer—and those who smoked may still file a lung cancer lawsuit if another carcinogen contributed to their cancer. Those diagnosed with lung cancer have a lower five-year survival rate than for many other cancers, at 18.6 percent. Medical treatment for lung cancer is expensive, even for those with insurance. Those diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of a carcinogenic substance may file a lung cancer lawsuit, an asbestos lung cancer lawsuit, a radon gas lung cancer lawsuit, or a silica dust lung cancer lawsuit.
A lung cancer lawsuit could include compensation for medical care and treatment (including all cancer-fighting treatments and palliative care), lost income, pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, disability or disfigurement, emotional anguish, and loss of consortium or companionship. Having a highly experienced lung cancer attorney to assist you with your lung cancer lawsuit can be highly beneficial. You may have been exposed to toxic substances that resulted in your lung cancer at your workplace, or elsewhere. A number of factors surrounding your lung cancer diagnosis can help your doctors and attorneys narrow down a list of potential causes. If you have risk factors such as workplace exposure to asbestos, radon gas, silica dust, arsenic, carbon monoxide, radiation, or other carcinogens, your risk of developing lung cancer increases.
If you worked in a high-risk occupation, your lung cancer diagnosis could be related to hazardous working conditions. Discussing your work history with a highly qualified lung cancer attorney can help determine the cause or causes of your lung cancer. Top lung cancer lawyers will have detailed lists of negligent substances to assist you in identifying your exposure sources. The timeline for your exposure and diagnosis can also factor into your ability to file a lung cancer lawsuit. The two types of legal claims for those diagnosed with lung cancer are personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits. For those whose lung cancer is a result of asbestos exposure, there are mesothelioma and asbestos trust funds that may provide compensation.
Because your lung cancer claim is unique to you and your circumstances, it is difficult to determine an “average” payment received by lung cancer plaintiffs, it is essential that you work with a lung cancer attorney who is highly knowledgeable regarding occupational exposure and lung cancer. This gives you the best chance of a successful lung cancer lawsuit and settlement.