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Maine Has the Highest Mesothelioma Rates in the Nation

Data recently released by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), a branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), shows that Maine suffers the highest death rate from mesothelioma of any state in the nation.  This is shocking news considering it is also one of the least populous and least industrialized.

Mesothelioma is an invariably fatal form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.  Airborne asbestos fibers, once inhaled or consumed, cause tumors to grow in the tissues that line the lung, heart and abdominal cavities.   

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, fibrous and extremely strong for its size and weight, which was used in thousands of readily available commercial products, home renovation supplies, and building materials until the EPA banned its use in the mid-1980s.

According to the NIOSH data, the average nationwide rate of mesothelioma death is just over 14 per million per month.  However, Maine’s rate is nearly double that at 27.5 per million per month.  

That statewide average is spread across the entire population but further digging into the data reveals that the risk of mesothelioma diagnosis and death can vary greatly between areas.  In fact, for four years (between 2000 and 2004) Sagadahoc County’s mesothelioma death rate was 500 percent higher than the national average. 

While mesothelioma is usually associated with asbestos exposure in industrial settings--the CDC’s own estimates suggest that over 1.3 million construction and industrial workers are currently being exposed to unsafe levels of the carcinogen even 20 years after the EPA ban--Maine has relatively little industry to speak of, comparatively.  The exceptions are the state’s textile and shipbuilding industries. 

Bath Iron Works and other similar shipbuilders employ thousands of Mainers and have been in operation for decades (Bath was built in the 1800s).  The shipbuilding industry is one of the most notorious when it comes to asbestos exposure as many of the insulating materials, gaskets, and seals used in the ship construction process formerly contained high levels of asbestos. 

The processes used at Bath Iron Works, which has been constructing ships for the United States Navy for years, may also be partially responsible for the extremely high rate of mesothelioma in Navy Veterans as well.

Putting the shipbuilding industry aside, several of the state’s small towns depend (or previously depended) on paper mills, textile mills, and a handful of factories, with a great portion of those towns’ populations being employed by such companies.  While NIOSH suggests that Maine’s rates may be partially skewed due to the small population, it holds this blue-collar worker-based economy partially to blame as well. 

Another factor that may often be overlooked when considering possible asbestos exposure and mesothelioma risk is the disproportionately high number of repurposed buildings in the state, many of which were constructed with asbestos-containing materials.  Rather than demolishing properties and building anew, Maine companies tend to remodel or renovate older structures, potentially increasing the risk of asbestos-related disease in workers, patrons, and inhabitants of these structures.

If you are a resident of Maine and diagnosed with  mesothelioma, call our asbestos law firm that has been specializing in handling mesothelioma lawsuits for more than 30 years for a free case evaluation.  After an initial free phone consult, one of our expert attorneys will come to your home to meet with you to let you know what’s involved in filing a mesothelioma lawsuit and how we can help.