Former Dental Assistant Diagnosed with Mesothelioma

Written by Jason Wentworth
Friday, 24 September 2010 21:15

A Long Island, NY woman with a history of secondary exposure to asbestos both as a child and as an adult tragically discovered that her exposure almost 50 years before would cause her to develop mesothelioma, a life-threatening form of cancer caused by exposure to the toxic mineral.

Shortly after she was diagnosed, the woman and her family made a number of important decisions about her health—which included hiring the asbestos lawyers at Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York City law firm that has been fighting for the rights of families devastated by asbestos diseases for more than two decades.
Throughout her battle with her illness, she and her family have had the support of her lawyers, who have secured more than $900,000 in lawsuit settlement proceeds to help with their daily living expenses, medical bills and other financial obligations.

As part of the woman’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, she provided testimony about her exposure to asbestos, how her diagnosis has impacted her life, and her outlook for her future.

The woman testified that her first exposure to asbestos occurred when she was a young child, and related that her father had been employed as a carpenter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII. She stated that she later came to learn that her father’s work at the Yard caused him to be exposed to asbestos, and that her mother would launder her father’s dusty work clothes using the family’s wringer washer.

Asbestos Exposure Continues


The woman testified that after she completed high school, she went to work in a dentist’s office. She related that she was essentially self-trained as a dental assistant, and routinely assisted the dentist when he was performing periodontal work.

She also stated she frequently visited the employees of a dental lab in the office building where the dental practice was located, and would often wait in the lab if she arrived to work before her boss or if she was waiting for a bus or a ride home at the end of her work day.

She recalled that the dental lab technicians made both crowns and dentures, and described the dust that would be generated from the machine used to manufacture dental appliances: “…when he had to bang it or hit it with the mallet and open it, all the dust would come out. And he always kept an apron that was dirty, that he would wipe it with, like a cloth on his shoulder. And when it came out he would shake it, he would blow, he would blow at it and wipe.”

Sadly, the woman testified that when her family was helping her to research her disease and possible ways she had been exposed to the dangerous carcinogen was how she had learned her work in the dental office and her visits in the dental lab caused her to be exposed to asbestos-containing periodontal dressings, dental rope and denture and crown materials.

In addition to her childhood exposure and her work-related secondary exposure to asbestos, her husband’s work at a family-owned asphalt manufacturing business also caused additional exposure to asbestos-containing materials.

The woman testified that orders from the state often meant that asbestos was added to the asphalt mix: “Sometimes the State would come in and want asbestos in the mixture for the road…they produced the mix that mostly the State, maybe two or three or four times that my husband is aware of, used asbestos in their mix.”

While the woman testified that she did not work at the asphalt company, she was exposed to asbestos dusts on her husband’s work clothes when the business completed a job for the state or other customers who requested asbestos to be added to the asphalt mix materials.

“Everything is Good…I Was Healthy”


The woman testified that her health had been generally good throughout her life. Although she developed gynecological problems that resulted in a hysterectomy when she was in her 40s and had a skin cancer growth on her thigh removed when she was in her early 60s, she described her health prior to her diagnosis with mesothelioma disease as “Everything is good, but high blood pressure at the time. I was healthy.”

Several years after the removal of the skin cancer growth, she developed a persistent cough and was treated by a physician for what was first believed an allergy-related condition. She eventually developed pains in her side which caused her to be unable to lie on her side. She underwent a CT scan and other tests, and was told she had lung cancer.

She was scheduled for surgery, but when the procedure was begun, the thoracic surgeon discovered the presence of mesothelioma and did not proceed with the surgery. She later underwent more comprehensive surgery: “I went in for the mesothelioma and the carcinoma. They removed the lung and a rib. And they mutilated me.”

Outlook for the Future


The woman testified that her knowledge of her asbestos exposure and the potential for her future health came from materials her family located for her on the Internet. “But in reading material, they say it recurs, it can recur. So I’m always aware that it could go to the stomach or somewhere else, I don’t know.”

When asked about her future, she testified that “…when you have cancer, you’re always worried if it is going to recur… I have more of a feeling that it could come in my stomach, from my reading material, not from the doctor, but that it could recur, the mesothelioma.”
Last Updated on Friday, 24 September 2010 21:40

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