How Often Is Asbestosis Misdiagnosed as Chronic Bronchitis?


It has been well documented – and proven in courtroom after courtroom – that breathing in asbestos fibers leads to the development of asbestosis. Asbestosis is long-term inflammation and scarring of the lungs that is caused by breathing in asbestos fibers. Prolonged exposure to these fibers can cause lung tissue scarring, shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. Complications may include lung cancer, mesothelioma, and pulmonary heart disease. Asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe, and usually don’t appear until many years after continued exposure.

Although the legal duty of employers is to eliminate employees’ exposure to asbestos, these federal regulations were not put into place for the past decade or so. Up until then, asbestos was regularly used in insulation and heat shielding on brakes, cabooses, diesel engines, diesel locomotives, generators, as well as around heating lines and inside offices, roadhouses, and shops. Not only were railroad workers exposed to these deadly fibers, but there was little to no protection provided to them to risk exposure to the asbestos.

Now, decades later, more and more retired and active railroad workers have developed a myriad of terrible pulmonary conditions. Unfortunately, many health care providers fail to properly diagnose these conditions correctly. Having the correct diagnosis is not only critical for receiving the appropriate and effective treatment, but it is also critical in order for the railroad worker to recover the compensation they deserve because of the asbestos exposure they have suffered.

One of the most common misdiagnoses of asbestosis is chronic bronchitis. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs. It can be either acute or chronic. Chronic bronchitis is a more serious condition in which the bronchial tubes are constantly irritated and inflamed and is characterized by breathing difficulties and increased mucus in the lungs. Chronic bronchitis eventually develops into emphysema.

Because the symptoms of asbestosis and chronic bronchitis often overlap, misdiagnosis usually occurs when the railroad worker’s doctor ignores the worker’s past history of asbestos exposure, especially since asbestos-related cancers and diseases are usually rare among the general population. This is why anyone with a history of work-related asbestos exposure should obtain a second medical opinion if they are having lung-related health issues. 

Contact a Virginia Mesothelioma Attorney Today

If you were diagnosed with asbestosis and worked for a railroad corporation like Norfolk Southern, CSX, Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, or other company, contact a Virginia asbestos cancer attorney immediately to find out what legal options you may have. It is imperative that you do not delay because, under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), victims (or their families) only have three years from the time they know or should have known that their disease or death was connected to their work with the railroad.

Due to the complexity of these cases and the stringent requirements under FELA, you and your family should contact a Virginia railroad asbestos cancer attorney who is skilled in litigating these types of injury cases. The legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have extensive experience with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illness cases. Call our office today for a free and confidential consultation.

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