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Mesothelioma and Cancer Lawsuits in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley”

Few illnesses are as devastating and life-altering as mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer with only one known cause: asbestos exposure. Yet, for most of the 20th century, asbestos was widely used as a building material in the United States and around the world, and numerous people were exposed to the material, mostly on the job.

Unfortunately, that means many families throughout the country are dealing with the effects of asbestos exposure. While those effects are felt everywhere, they are more severe in some places than others. Among the nation’s most notorious mesothelioma and lung cancer hotspots is the portion of Louisiana known as “Cancer Alley.”

Where is Cancer Alley?

Cancer Alley is a nickname for an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River in Louisiana between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, including St. Charles Parish, St. James Parish, and St. John the Baptist Parish. This area of Louisiana contains over 150 petrochemical plants and refineries, which means residents and workers in the area are exposed to massive amounts of pollution.

The cancer rate in this region is more than 50% higher than in the United States as a whole, and in some communities, it’s much higher. For instance, in the riverside town of Reserve, “almost every household has somebody that died with cancer or that’s battling cancer,” according to one resident.

Asbestos exposure and mesothelioma in Cancer Alley

Among the many occupational hazards for many people in the Cancer Alley region is exposure to asbestos. Because of the obvious risk of fires and explosions, petroleum refineries need fireproof materials. For years, asbestos was used in many types of refinery equipment to provide heat and chemical resistance. For instance, until 1980, gaskets were often made with asbestos for the material’s durability. Workers may have also worn fireproof gloves and clothing that contained asbestos in the course of their work.

While asbestos is no longer used in newly manufactured equipment in refineries, many of the older buildings in the Cancer Alley region may still contain asbestos. As long as asbestos is undisturbed, the risk is low, but if the equipment is disturbed or removed for repair, airborne asbestos fibers can become a hazard to workers.

Other carcinogens common in Cancer Alley

There are dozens of toxic chemicals in the air in Cancer Alley, many of which are known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). Among those chemicals are:

  • Benzene, a highly flammable chemical found in crude oil and gasoline. Benzene can cause leukemia, lymphoma, myelodysplasia, multiple myeloma, and other serious health issues.
  • Formaldehyde, which is associated with industries that produce building materials like insulation and fiberglass. Formaldehyde can cause rare cancers of the sinuses.
  • Ethylene oxide, a colorless gas used to make household cleaners and detergents. Exposure to ethylene oxide has been linked to leukemia and lymphoma.
  • Chloroprene, a chemical used to produce a synthetic rubber called neoprene, which is used in consumer products like computer sleeves and wetsuits. The only neoprene manufacturer in the United States is located in Cancer Alley – and chloroprene has been found to cause liver and lung cancer.

In addition to petrochemical facilities, commercial agriculture is a significant part of the economy in the Cancer Alley region and rural Louisiana more broadly. As a result, cancer-causing chemicals used for farm operations, such as Roundup, are a significant threat to workers and residents of the region.

Legal options for cancer victims and their families

Individuals who develop cancer due to toxic exposure may have legal recourse against the business or businesses responsible for that exposure. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve a negotiated settlement or a civil lawsuit against the company. It also may involve a wrongful death lawsuit for a loved one who died of cancer.

However, winning these cases is a complex and difficult process. Often, cancer develops many years after exposure – mesothelioma, for example, can occur anywhere from 10 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos. Therefore, an in-depth investigation is required to gather documents and verify the exposure and liability on the part of a specific company. In addition, the science linking specific chemicals to specific cancers is also evolving and sometimes disputed.

Industrial companies and other businesses responsible for cancer cases have significant resources to defend their interests. They hire teams of attorneys to dispute and defend against claims. However, victims can level the playing field with their own legal representation.

How a Louisiana cancer attorney can help

Again, winning a cancer lawsuit requires significant investigation and preparation. An experienced attorney can conduct an independent investigation to prove that your cancer was caused by toxic exposure and hold the responsible business or businesses accountable. This may involve poring over documents, interviewing witnesses, and retaining experts who can explain the connection between chemical exposure and cancer. An attorney can also document the full extent of your damages and advocate for the full amount of financial compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost income, and other costs.

Just as importantly, having an attorney means you do not have to deal directly with the at-fault business and its insurance company. Instead, your attorney can handle the negotiations and, if necessary, litigation, allowing you to focus on your health.

Most mesothelioma and cancer attorneys work on contingency, so you don’t have to pay up front. The attorney gets paid only if they win your case. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another cancer caused by toxic exposure, talk to an attorney in your area today.

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