For residents of Illinois, asbestos injury risk is significantly higher than in much of the country. Currently, Illinois is number eight among the 50 states ranked in order of asbestos-linked deaths per year. It’s ranked sixth in mesothelioma deaths specifically with a rate of just over 13 fatalities for every million residents. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, between 1999 and 2005, around 1700 people in Illinois died of asbestos-related medical conditions; more than half of those were afflicted with mesothelioma cancer.
High Risks Involving Occupational Exposure
Many of the most prominent industries backing Illinois’ state economy-including agriculture, coal, petroleum, timber and manufacturing-made heavy use of asbestos-made materials throughout most of the 20th century. As a result, the state is now home to several of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) designated Superfund sites-locations that have been flagged for clean up, as toxic levels of asbestos waste are present in the air and ground.
Before government intervention forced businesses to heavily regulate the use of asbestos in the 1980s, millions of workers were exposed to dangerous amounts of the carcinogenic substance. Over the decades since, thousands have fallen ill as a result of that exposure.
Many of the negligent, Illinois-based businesses allegedly responsible for exposing unknowing victims to a known toxin are notable on a national scale. Several of the biggest oil companies in the U.S. have been named as defendants in Illinois asbestos cases-among them Mobil, Shell and CITGO. Other high-profile defendants include the Eureka Company, Illinois Light and Power and Metal Works.
Statewide Response to a Health Crisis
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency established an Asbestos Unit to oversee and regulate clean-up efforts, as well as to educate the public about risks associated with asbestos exposure and how to remain safe when coming into contact with old asbestos-containing materials.
In Illinois, asbestos abatement has become a formidable industry in itself, licensing more than 10,000 professionals each year. The Illinois Department of Public Health tasked its Division of Environmental Health participates in the regulation of clean-up and remodeling projects involving asbestos by reviewing construction plans, performing on-site inspections and enforcing compliance with state and federal safety regulations.
The Division of Environmental Health is also responsible for creating the standards in the training and licensure of asbestos abatement professionals from six separate career fields. The purpose of such industry standardization is to ensure that workers are properly educated on the safety protocol set in place to protect both themselves as well as the public at large from potentially fatal exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.