Find a Lawyer

Lung Cancer Causes


Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Every year, smoking causes an estimated 400,000 deaths. Something many people do not know is that even if they smoke or have been exposed to secondhand smoke, tobacco smoking might not have caused their lung disease. A physician quite possibly could have attributed lung cancer to the wrong cause.

There are millions of industrial employees and laborers in the United States who are regularly exposed to toxins in substances such as asbestos. Miners, shipbuilders, pipe fitters, tile workers, welders, refinery workers, sanders, and other workers in high risk jobs can easily be exposed to toxins and environmental pollutants. The effects of these substances can surface years later – as many as 40 – as lung cancer or another dangerous lung disease, such as silicosis. This is because the offending toxins, such as asbestos fibers, can remain inactive and go undetected in the lungs for decades, leaving no cause for concern. Sadly, many victims have no idea anything is wrong until it is too late.

Some of the most dangerous non–smoking causes of lung cancer to which many workers have been exposed are described below.


Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral popularly used last century as insulation and in thousands of products. Today we know that asbestos exposure is extremely dangerous. When inhaled, asbestos fibers become embedded in the lungs, damaging cells, restricting the lungs' ability to function properly, and increasing one's chances of developing lung cancer, such as mesothelioma, or another dangerous lung disease, such as asbestosis. According to some experts, workers who have been exposed to asbestos are three to four times more likely to develop lung cancer than workers who have not been exposed. This risk is even greater for those exposed workers who have been smoking for a substantial period or who have been exposed to secondhand smoke. If you have developed an asbestos-related cancer or disease, it may be necessary to hire an asbestos attorney to help you protect your legal rights. An attorney can investigate your claim and assist you in obtaining compensation for your injuries.


A tasteless, odorless, and clear gas, radon is found naturally in soil, rocks, and the ground. Miners and other workers are at high risk for overexposure to this extremely toxic substance, which is known to cause lung cancer. In some instances, this substance is even found in people's homes: in fact, about one in every 15 homes has higher-than-recommended levels of radon. It's a good idea to obtain a test from your local hardware store and verify that the levels are at a very low, safe level.


A number of studies have linked pollution, including exhaust fumes and fossil fuels, to lung cancer, although specific details have not been clearly defined. More research is being conducted to uncover conclusive evidence.

Lung Disease

Some researchers believe that victims of particular lung diseases – such as silicosis, mesothelioma, and tuberculosis – may be more susceptible to lung cancer because tumors typically develop in the scar tissue these illnesses leave behind.


A clear, flammable gas with a pungent odor, benzene is one of the 20 most dangerous known carcinogens in the United States. Benzene exposure has been linked to a myriad of diseases, including leukemia, aplastic anemia, and lung cancer. Information on benzene products and health risks is provided below.

Benzene Products

Benzene is typically used in making chemicals found in degreasers, solvents, and a slew of household products, including art supplies, cleaning supplies, and detergents. It is also found in cigarette smoke. Because many benzene products are commonly found in homes and offices, benzene exposure and the related risks can be very serious concerns.

Benzene Exposure Risks

Benzene exposure generally results from inhalation of the chemical, which attacks the central nervous system shortly after exposure, but benzene can also be absorbed through the skin. Benzene exposure presents a number of risks. If you have been exposed to benzene and are experiencing fatigue, malaise (bodily discomfort), excessive bruising, joint pain, weakness, or enlarged lymph nodes, it is imperative that you seek medical care. Additionally, it may be necessary to hire an attorney to protect your rights.

Although anyone who uses products that contain benzene is considered to be at risk for exposure, it is generally gasoline distribution workers, pipe fitters, refinery workers, and other laborers who are most vulnerable.


Once believed to be a non-hazardous alternative to asbestos, fiberglass has for years been used in a variety of common products, but researchers recently concluded that fiberglass exposure and inhalation of the product's fibers may cause serious health risks, including lung cancer and lung disease.

Fiberglass Products

Fiberglass is a man-made material that was first used in the 1930s. Today, common fiberglass products include: ceiling and pipe insulation, curtains, and sound control materials for airplanes and cars. Fiberglass can also be used in some plastic products, roofing materials, and furnace filters.

Fiberglass Exposure Risks

When fiberglass is cut, trimmed, sawed, or sanded, tiny fibers are released into the air. When inhaled, these fibers become lodged in the lungs, triggering the growth of scar tissue, and possibly, cancerous tumors. Large fibers do not cause significant lung problems but are linked to skin irritation, eye soreness, upper respiratory infections, stomach irritation, and other health risks.

Laborers, shipbuilders, and pipe fitters are at the highest risk for fiberglass exposure and associated health risks, but anyone who comes into contact with fiberglass and inhales the tiny fibers may be at risk for lung cancer or other adverse health effects.

For individuals who frequently come into contact with fiberglass products, the risks of exposure may be further increased if proper precautions are not taken, such as working with fiberglass is well-ventilated areas and wearing a dust mask to avoid inhaling fibers. However, there is no fail-proof method for avoiding exposure. If you believe you are at risk, you should seek the advice of a medical professional. You may also need to speak with an attorney to protect your legal rights.

Paints and Solvents

Paint and solvent exposure has been linked to serious health risks. Ordinary cans of house or spray paint are brimming with potentially toxic chemicals and chemical compounds, including pigments, extenders, binders, solvents, and additives, as well as alcohols, esters, glycol ethers, and ketones.

Paint and Solvent Exposure

Painters are frequently exposed to dangerous substances in paints and solvents - whether it be through inhalation or dermal contact - putting them at grave risk for developing lung cancer and other adverse health effects.

Additionally, paint factory workers, construction painters, and furniture finishers face increased paint and solvent exposure and related health risks. Paint factory workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals found in the paint itself, construction painters inhale toxic dust and pyrolysis products, and furniture furnishers can breathe in significant amounts of formaldehyde. Workers in these high risk industries may also face exposure to titanium dioxide, chromium, iron compounds, and in some cases, asbestos.

Health Risks

Anyone who worked as a painter in any industry may be at risk of developing lung cancer as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals in many paints and solvents. If you are experiencing liver or kidney problems, contact dermatitis, bronchitis, shortness of breath, continual chest pains, or you are expectorating blood, it is imperative that you seek medical care as soon as possible. Additionally, it may be necessary to seek the advice of an attorney to help protect your legal rights.

Silica Dust Exposure

Silica dust is created when sandstone, granite, and other silica-containing materials are mined, drilled, or cut. These actions can release fine particles of silica dust into the air. When the silica dust particles are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs, spurring the growth of breathing-inhibiting nodules. Even short-term exposure-as little as a few weeks-can trigger silicosis or other serious health risks.

Anyone who works around the dust released from silica – especially miners, sandblasters, and concrete laborers – is at elevated risk for exposure and related silica dust health risks. Exposure to silica dust may initially cause eye, nose, and throat irritation and shortness of breath. Over time, prolonged exposure can lead to lung damage and silicosis. Individuals who develop silicosis are also at an increased risk for developing lung cancer.

If you have been exposed to silica dust, it is imperative that you seek medical care. Additionally, it may be necessary to speak with an attorney about your legal rights.

Other Causes

Other lung disease and lung cancer causes include exposure to silica dust, fiberglass, benzene, paints and solvents, and secondhand smoke.

Contact a Lung Cancer Attorney

If you suspect that asbestos or other toxins may be the cause of your lung cancer, an experienced lawyer can help you protect your rights. Use LawyerShop’s directory to find an attorney near you.

Lawyers Serving Your Area