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The Links Between Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Exposure to asbestos is the primary source of malignant mesotheliomas and other asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis. Though many sources of asbestos have thankfully been removed or discontinued, the material was heavily used in many industries up until a few decades ago. Mesothelioma has a long latency period; therefore, many new patients are still learning about this disease today. There are two forms of exposure we can help with:
When companies used asbestos, either in manufacturing or consumer goods, they knew the substance could put others at risk of disease. Their negligence in allowing its use regardless makes them responsible for the damages others have faced after being exposed to asbestos.
This is the most common way people came into contact with asbestos when the material was widely used. Industries such as asbestos mining, manufacturing, and processing are obvious sources of exposure, but countless other job sites carry a high exposure risk. Tragically, a large number of Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos when working on or near ships.
Here are some of the occupations that may have asbestos exposure:
- Armed Forces service
- Shipyard worker
- Power plant worker
- Demolition crew member
- Sheet metal worker
- Ceiling and floor tile manufacturer
- Automobile plant worker
- Asbestos miner
- Maker of heat-resistant fabrics or clothing
- Rubber worker
- Warehouse worker
- Boat builders
- Oil refinery worker
- Chemical plant worker
- Commercial and residential construction worker
- Heat & air conditioning expert
- Drywall installer
- Auto mechanic
- Plastic manufacturer
- Building engineer
- Railroad worker
This is not a definitive list of jobs that may have exposed someone to asbestos. If your employer or another company made asbestos a hazard of your job, you do have the right to hold them accountable.
Many people come into contact with asbestos without ever working with or near it. This can cause confusion for some mesothelioma patients who don’t know when they were exposed to asbestos. In some cases, family members of asbestos workers have contracted mesothelioma after small asbestos fibers were carried home from the workplace on skin, hair, or clothing. Another common form of non-occupational asbestos exposure occurs when people live near asbestos mines or plants that manufactured asbestos-containing products.
Asbestos Exposure Today
As people become more informed about the inherent risks of working with asbestos, it has gained a bad reputation. International organizations have called for an end to the use of chrysotile asbestos. In 2006, The International Labor Organization stated its concern about an emerging epidemic of related diseases and passed a resolution to encourage a worldwide ban on asbestos. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed its support for countries that were planning to ban asbestos.
However, progress is slow. Asbestos is now banned in 52 countries, but those countries make up less than a third of WHO’s member nations. World production of asbestos remains at over 2 million tons annually. Russia leads the production worldwide, followed by China, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Canada, Zimbabwe, and Colombia. Especially in developing nations, there are few worker protections, meaning asbestos-related diseases and cancers will continue to rise.
The Danger in the U.S.
In the U.S., the National Toxicology Program declared asbestos a proven human carcinogen in 1980 and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) followed suit in 1986. The scientific community is in agreement, say researchers, that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, and that “there is no evidence of a threshold level below which there is no risk of mesothelioma.” Though it has not been completely banned from our marketplaces, asbestos is much less prevalent than it was just a few decades ago.
Asbestos Removal and Abatement
Because one of asbestos’ selling points was its durability, asbestos hazards often require manual removal. More than 30 million homes and buildings in America were built with some type of asbestos product. In fact, if you live or work in an older building, it is possible you have been exposed to asbestos, the cause of mesothelioma cancer.
Complete removal of the materials is the only sure way to remove the risk of exposure. However, it is not safe to handle any products containing asbestos yourself: You need the services of a licensed asbestos abatement professional. In some cases, it is not practical or possible to remove all the asbestos from an older building. In these instances, asbestos may be contained or encapsulated to reduce the risk of exposure to people or pets.
There are strict federal, state, and local laws detailing the safe handling and disposal of asbestos products. If you have questions about the rules in your state or city, we can help you understand them.
What to Do If You’re Exposed
If you have been exposed to asbestos, there is no way to undo any damage that may have been done to your lungs or other organs. However, you should remove yourself (and others) from the area to prevent further exposure. Keep in mind asbestos fibers can settle on your hair and clothes and may travel with you.
Additionally, is important to let your doctor know about your exposure so that he or she may closely monitor your health for signs of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.
Asbestos Exposure-Related Diseases
This aggressive cancer develops in the cells that line many of the body’s internal organs, known as mesothelial cells. Roughly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the cells that line the lungs, known as the pleura. Mesothelioma can also attack the cells that line the peritoneum (abdominal cavity) and the pericardium (lining of the heart). In very rare cases of peritoneal mesothelioma, mesothelioma can affect the cellular lining of the testicles.
While treatment may help prolong a patient’s life and reduce their symptoms, no cure for this cancer has been found.
You may think of mesothelioma as a lung cancer, but because it affects the membrane that lines the lungs rather than the organ itself, it is classified differently. There are two types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer affects roughly 80 percent of patients; small-cell lung cancer, though rarer, is the more aggressive form.
Common lung cancer symptoms are similar to mesothelioma symptoms and can include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Anyone who displays these symptoms for a prolonged period and who has been exposed to asbestos should consult a doctor to determine whether they have developed lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Other Cancers Linked with Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to asbestos can also increase a person’s risk for developing lung, gallbladder, throat, kidney, esophagus, breast, and prostate cancer, as well as lymphomas and leukemia.
When asbestos is inhaled, it can damage the lung, leading to the formation of stiff scar tissue. It may take a decade after the initial exposure for asbestosis to develop. Thankfully, the condition is treatable.
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Contact a Mesothelioma Lawyer If You’ve Been Diagnosed
If you or someone you love has contracted mesothelioma or another disease as a result of exposure to asbestos, you likely have the right to file a claim against the at-fault company or companies. A mesothelioma lawsuit can’t restore your health, but it can help you recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses that accrue after a diagnosis. Our mesothelioma attorneys at Shrader & Associates, LLP have pursued justice for thousands of mesothelioma victims against large companies across the nation.
We understand you need all-around support after a diagnosis, and our team is ready to help. Whether connecting you with resources, helping you learn about treatment options, or answering your legal questions, we are here to make this process run as smoothly as possible. You need a dedicated, client-focused team on your side. That’s what we can provide.