Risk Factors of Asbestos
Risk factors of cancer are varied and can include environmental, occupational, or genetic factors. Lifestyle choices and pharmaceutical substances may also fall into this category. However, it remains uncertain why those possessing several risk factors pointing to the development of cancer never develop the condition. Nevertheless, the relatively rare form of cancer resulting from asbestos exposure, known as mesothelioma, develops most commonly in those exposed to the highest intensity of asbestos for the longest period of time.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma attacks the mesothelium, which is the protective lining surrounding the lungs, abdomen, chest, and other internal organs. Asbestos, the toxin leading to this form of cancer, is a mineral silicate which naturally occurs in the environment and was used extensively in construction, automotive and fire-resistant materials, especially in the 20th century. Today, the use of this type of silicate is prohibited by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, asbestos is still legally used in specific situations, like high temperature gaskets in refineries.
Despite many regulations, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s initial 1989 “Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule,” as many as 3,000 new mesothelioma cases arise every year in the United States. These newly-diagnosed individuals suffered dangerous levels of exposure to asbestos, despite recent regulation of the material. While there has been a decrease in the diagnosis of males, the number of females exposed has remained stable, indicating the cancer’s equal threat to both sexes as career roles change.
Some occupations have higher risks of asbestos exposure than others, such as miners, construction workers, factory workers, demolition workers, railroad workers, and veterans of branches of the military, especially the Navy. Ship disassembling workers and building workers are also at high risk. Mesothelioma sometimes affects the families of these workers as well, due to the possibility of carrying asbestos fibers from work on clothing and hair.
Even today, the EPA estimates that asbestos-containing materials can be found in most of the nation’s primary, secondary and charter schools. Its most common uses in schools were as insulation and as a building material. Other public buildings are estimated to contain it as well, often in floor and ceiling tiles, cement asbestos pipe and pipe and boiler insulation, the EPA reports. All of these sources of asbestos exposure become mesothelioma risks as the material ages and becomes friable, which allows its small, light fibers to suspend in the air for hours if disturbed.
Effects on the Respiratory System
Asbestos fibers are composed of silicates. These fibers can be inhaled and spread throughout the respiratory system. Asbestos fibers can be swallowed as well, affecting the abdomen’s inner lining. This condition is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers reach the lungs, they can penetrate the lining and the inner surface of the chest area.
People who have experienced symptoms of mesothelioma should contact a physician immediately, as well as consulting with an attorney. Employers and manufacturers that knowingly used asbestos despite its terrible health consequences could be held liable for just compensation, covering medical bills, lost wages, and any additional financial matters that arise for patients and their families from the contraction of mesothelioma.