The Relationship Between Exposure and Cancer
Establishing a causal relationship between an exposure to any hazardous material and an individual’s symptoms requires showing a temporal link between exposure and after-effects and a level of exposure that would lead to the illness. For asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, there have been enough cases that it is presumed that mesothelioma in any patient with a history of exposure got the cancer from the asbestos. Plenty of literature in medical and legal journals can establish this connection.
Public health minded doctors may wish to determine whether others have also been exposed and need to be examined for asbestos-related illness. They may initiate interventions to reduce or eliminate exposures. It may become necessary for the physician to inform a company health and safety committee, the company medical department, or the state public health or labor department. Work site inspections are carried out by OSHA and state regulatory agencies, either randomly, on a schedule, or at the request of a worker. If a violation of OSHA standards occurs, fines may be levied in certain cases.
The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine certifies occupational and environmental medicine specialists (www.acoem.org), the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (www.aoec.org), worker education/advocacy groups such as Coalition for Safety and Health (COSH) groups around the country, and Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (www.aoec.org/PEHSU.htm). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can help practitioners by providing them with toxicological information on asbestos and undertaking health hazard assessments of workers. Industrial hygienists who work for workers’ compensation carriers or private consulting groups can perform worksite assessments and monitoring and give advice about risk mitigation majors. It may be useful for practitioners to get in touch with state and local government agencies for public health and environmental protection.
Health care professionals sometimes help out a worker in obtaining workers’ compensation, although in mesothelioma cases, law firms are probably better suited for that task. The term “work-related” is defined differently in different states, but it generally implies specific occupational activities have contributed to, caused, hastened, or worsened the illness or injury. Since the workers’ compensation system is state-based, filers should familiarize themselves with state regulations, which is another reason to get a lawyer to help. Benefits available under workers’ compensation provide for permanent disability, work time lost, rehabilitation and medical care expenses.
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