Maryland Mesothelioma Resources and Asbestos Information
The state of Maryland suffered the loss of more than 1,000 lives in the 20-year period between 1980 and 2000 as a result of diseases caused asbestos exposure. This equates to a rate of roughly 1 in 5,000 of the Maryland population, a rate above the national average. Additionally, over half these deaths occurred within Baltimore County. Maryland’s rural counties experienced fewer deaths due to asbestos diseases, reporting only three in the same period before 2000, though this was still higher than other rural areas of the United States.
In addition to mesothelioma cancer, asbestos can cause the disease asbestosis, which is scarring and thickening of lung tissue caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. Asbestosis was responsible for more than 60 percent of the Maryland deaths. More common than asbestos-related cancer, this disease may not occur until decades after exposure. It is a progressive chronic disease that is often treatable, if it is found early enough.
Shipyard workers are notoriously at risk for asbestos exposure. In an effort to prevent fires at sea, asbestos has been widely used in shipbuilding, leading to the higher exposure rates. In a coastal state like Maryland with the Chesapeake Bay and Baltimore Harbor at hand, shipbuilding is both a military and civilian operation. Portland cement, a regular ingredient in concrete, grout and mortar, has been mixed with asbestos fibers by at least one Maryland construction firm, and may have been used in significant building projects that are now showing problems.
Other workers at risk include those in power plants, where asbestos materials were frequently used as electrical insulators. They have been found in electrical cloth tape, lagging insulation used prevent heat dispersion, and generator and turbine components. One study presented in 2007 revealed that in chest x-rays of Puerto Rican power plant employees, 13 percent contained some kind of an anomaly.
All types of asbestos are toxic. The most common type used in power plants, amphibole, has hard, spear-shaped fibers that reportedly cause the cellular mutations that can lead to cancer. The type most commonly associated with asbestos is mesothelioma, a rare form, but one which is often fatal because it is rarely diagnosed until it has significantly advanced.