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Mesothelioma and Asbestos in New York

With some known asbestos deposits and widespread industry use, New York has faced many mesothelioma deaths. Asbestos victims and their families have legal options.

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Key Points

  • 1

    Between 1999 and 2015, 2,354 New York residents died from mesothelioma.

  • 2

    New York has a mesothelioma death rate of about 7.2 people per million.

  • 3

    Researchers have identified 23 known asbestos sites in the state, including mines.

  • 4

    Patients and surviving family members have 3 or 2 years respectively to file a claim.

Despite growing public awareness about its hazards, asbestos remains a concern in New York. Asbestos is found in thousands of homes, businesses, industrial sites and even schools across the state, as well as in much of its infrastructure.

Breathing in asbestos fibers over long periods can cause the rare and fatal cancer mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos most often occurs in the workplace, but residents can also be put at risk when construction work, damage to infrastructure and other circumstances disturb asbestos fibers. Many New York cancer centers provide specialized treatment for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions, helping to reduce pain and prolong patients’ survival.

After the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City, many citizens became concerned about the presence of asbestos fibers in the dust cloud that engulfed Ground Zero and surrounding blocks. Large amounts of asbestos were used in the construction of the World Trade Center. The long-term effects of this exposure are yet to be seen.

New York closely monitors the use, removal and disposal of asbestos. Those who violate state or federal regulations relating to the mineral face fines of up to $15,000. Despite these regulations, New York has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the U.S. The New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) court handles all mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits in the state, with many multi-million dollar decisions being handed down in favor of claimants.

Asbestos Exposure in New York

Although efforts have been made to limit public exposure, New York remains full of asbestos. Its many shipyards, train stations and power plants are examples of sites that have exposed employees.

Asbestos in the workplace puts both workers and their families at risk of developing mesothelioma. An estimated 20% of all cases in the U.S. are caused by exposure that occurs when asbestos dust enters the home on a worker’s clothes, shoes, or hair. Secondary exposure is typically the result of employers failing to follow regulations relating to adequate protective clothing and decontamination procedures.

Asbestos was used in the construction of many buildings across the state, including countless residences and schools. At the start of the school year in 1993, over 1,000 schools across New York closed temporarily due to concerns about exposed asbestos on the premises, including in the plaster. Some of the schools containing asbestos had previously been declared asbestos-free.

Although harmless when undisturbed, any activity that causes asbestos fibers to be released into the air presents dangers to public health. This is of particular concern in New York City due to its presence in much of the city’s aging infrastructure. In 2007, an old asbestos-wrapped steam pipe exploded in Midtown Manhattan during rush hour. Officials declared the air free of asbestos fibers, but the debris and dust contained it. People in the vicinity of the blast were decontaminated or advised to dispose of their clothes. The city has experienced multiple steam pipe explosions since the 1980s, raising concerns about public safety. While most asbestos-related illnesses result from prolonged exposure to the carcinogen, no amount of asbestos inhalation is safe.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 1,443 deaths from malignant mesothelioma in New York between 2001 and 2010. Only California, Florida and Pennsylvania reported higher rates of mesothelioma fatalities during this period. Most diagnoses of the disease occur in densely populated areas of the states, including Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Asbestos and the World Trade Center

On September 11, 2001, the terrorist attack on World Trade Center devastated New York. When the Twin Towers fell, destroying many of the surrounding buildings, debris containing carcinogenic substances dusted several neighboring city blocks. The construction of the Towers in the 1960s used thousands of tons of asbestos. The initial responders and nearby pedestrians faced the greatest risk of exposure. Many did not initially wear respirators.

A week after the attack, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the air was safe to breathe. Many called this response into question, and a 2003 report from the Office of the Inspector General later concluded that the EPA had not collected sufficient data to make that claim.

Thousands of civilians inhaled the dust and many developed respiratory issues. Whether or not exposure to this dust could contribute to cancer remains a matter of debate. It is difficult to predict whether the 9/11 attack will lead to an increase in mesothelioma cases in years to come since mesothelioma has a long latency period. Most patients do not experience symptoms for 15-60 years after being exposed to asbestos. At this time, diseases resulting from inhalation of the dust have caused at least three deaths.

Treatment Options for Mesothelioma Patients in New York

There is currently no cure for mesothelioma. With treatment, relief from symptoms and prolonged survival is often possible. Patients with mesothelioma can receive treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as many alternative treatments. Visit our page on treatment costs to find out how some or all of the diagnosis and treatment costs can be recovered.

If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of mesothelioma, it is important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Mesothelioma progresses rapidly, and the earlier you seek treatment, the better your prognosis may be. A number of New York doctors specialize in the treatment of the disease.

Top New York Mesothelioma Specialists
Dr. Raja M. Flores

Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center

Dr. Sai Yendamuri
Dr. Sai Yendamuri

Chair of Thoracic Surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Dr. John D. Allendorf

Surgeon at NY-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center

Find More Mesothelioma Doctors in New York

Several cancer centers in New York offer mesothelioma treatment programs. These centers often conduct research into the disease in the hope of finding a cure, and some patients may be eligible to participate in clinical trials for emerging treatments.

Top New York Mesothelioma Clinics
Mount Sinai Medical Center

Treatment center located in New York City

NY-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center

Treatment center located in New York City

Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Treatment center located in Buffalo

Find Mesothelioma Cancer Centers Near You

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits in New York

No federal legislature is in place to compensate patients affected by an asbestos-related illness. Many take their cases to court in individual or consolidated lawsuits. New York has historically found in favor of claimants in many multi-million dollar lawsuits, and recent modifications to trial rules have opened the door for even higher award verdicts.

All lawsuits concerning asbestos-related illnesses are handled by the New York City Asbestos Litigation court, known as NYCAL. Supreme Court Justice Peter Moulton currently oversees all cases in this docket. Typically, cases filed by patients with short life expectancies are handled as quickly as possible.

In April 2014, Justice Sherry Klein Heitler (the judge formerly responsible for overseeing NYCAL) changed rules put in place in 1996 that deferred claimants from seeking punitive damages. A New York appellate court upheld this decision in 2015. Claims for punitive damages cannot be filed after the evidentiary phase of trial proceedings. A lawyer specializing in mesothelioma cases can advise you how this ruling may affect your claim.

Many defendants have challenged NYCAL decisions. This includes the Blackmer Pump Company, who in June of 2013 was denied a motion to avoid court-sponsored inspection of their product manuals. Since these manuals were given to customers to assist with the installation and maintenance of Blackmer pumps (during which time asbestos exposure might occur), the court found that the manuals could be admitted as evidence.

From the date of exposure, you have just three years to file an asbestos-related lawsuit in New York. If a loved one has died from mesothelioma, the limitations period for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death. Contact a New York mesothelioma attorney to discuss the best options for you and your family.

Most regulations related to the handling, removal and disposal of asbestos are covered by Part 56 of Title 12 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (12 NYCRR Part 56), which falls under the New York State Department of Labor. These regulations do not apply to repairs performed by the homeowner if a single-family lives in the home. 12 NYCRR Part 56 requires that all residents or other occupants of a building must receive written notice 10 calendar days before large scale asbestos-related work can begin, with some smaller projects and emergency situations requiring shorter notice.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Environmental Compliance also has a series of rules and regulations relating to asbestos in Title 15, Chapter 1. Violating any of these rules carries a civil penalty of up to $10,000, with one exception. Violators of section 1-26 (which relates to asbestos work that may present non-asbestos-related dangers to public health and safety, including obstructing fire escapes) are subject to fines of up to $15,000.