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What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that was utilized for its tensile strength and heat resistant properties. Several industries such as the automotive, shipbuilding, and construction business used asbestos and products containing asbestos for various applications. Asbestos is a friable mineral, meaning that it is easily reduced to small particles that can be ingested or inhaled, posing serious health risks. These particles, once within the body, embed themselves in the tissues surrounding vital organs. The body is unable to flush these particles and so they act as a human carcinogen resulting in illnesses such as asbestosis and diseases such as lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.
What Products Contain Asbestos?
Asbestos can still be found in numerous products. The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that a study had estimated approximately 3,000 consumer products that contained asbestos, varying in levels of concentration. Commercial materials including adhesives and appliance components, as well as some automotive parts are likely to contain asbestos. Examples of these types of products are:
- Brake pads
- Clutch plates
- Ceiling pads
Unfortunately, this list is not exhaustive and despite public misconception dangerous levels of asbestos and its use have not been banned in the United States. While the federal government has regulated the substance since the 1970s and 80s, the dangerous substance remains, particularly in buildings and homes constructed prior to these regulations.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that attacks cells within the mesothelium, which line the lungs, heart and abdomen. Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of this deadly form of cancer, with extensive research documenting the connection. In the U.S. there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed. Statistical projections indicate this number will continue to climb in the future. Abroad the cancer’s numbers vary according to the population and product bans and regulations. The United States and Canada remain two of the last countries to implement a ban of the substance.
There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma and treatments are usually palliative in nature. Those patients diagnosed in the beginning stages of cancer have undergone aggressive surgical procedures and multimodal treatments with varied success rates. Clinical trials and other forms of medical study are a means of hope for patients with rare diseases such as mesothelioma. Patients also sometimes investigate alternative and complementary forms of treatment as a way of improving their quality of life and overall well-being.
There is no determined “safe” level of exposure to asbestos. Those who may have been exposed to asbestos, whether through particular products or environment, are encouraged to speak to their doctor concerning mesothelioma screening procedures and their probability of developing the cancer.