Deadline vs. disease

At least 11 states set such short deadlines to file occupational-illness claims in their workers’ compensation systems that they can leave people who develop latent diseases — often the most serious of all work-related conditions — with no right to wage and medical help. Alabama is one such state.

Deadline to file a claim in Alabama: Within two years of the last exposure to “the hazards of the disease.” In cases involving death, the worker must die within three years of last exposure.

Time it takes to develop select diseases that can be triggered by work:

  • Mesothelioma, a cancer triggered by asbestos: Typically 30 years or more
  • Bladder cancer, associated with coal tar, metalworking fluids and other workplace hazards: Typically 15 to 40 years
  • Lung cancer, linked to chromium, nickel, asbestos and other workplace hazards: Typically 10 to 30 years
  • Asbestosis, an asbestos-caused scarring of the lungs: Typically 10 to 20 years
  • Silicosis, a lung disease triggered by silica dust: Typically 10 years or more
  • Parkinson’s syndrome, associated with pesticides, trichloroethylene, manganese and other workplace hazards: Unclear latency period, but while it can come on quickly, the lag time is likely more than a decade; average age of onset is 60

Sources: The Alabama Department of Labor, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.K. regulator Health and Safety Executive, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and various epidemiological studies.