These days, many people are wondering about who is at risk of asbestos exposure. With the seemingly constant reports of recalled products, unsafe working conditions, and the many toxins in our environment, it’s not surprising that people working with asbestos are concerned about the very real risk of asbestos cancer.
Mesothelioma cancer is a rare form of cancer found in the lining of the lungs, stomach or heart. Mesothelioma victims typically do not know they have the deadly illness until it too late to treat. This is because when the rare asbestos cancer attacks, it leaves a trail of symptoms that resemble those of common illnesses such as bronchitis or the stomach flu.
Anyone who comes into contact with high levels of asbestos risks developing mesothelioma cancer. Because asbestos is strong and resistant to heat, it is used in a wide variety of applications, and people may suffer exposure without even knowing it. Asbestos was thought of as a kind of miracle material that was flame-, fire-, and friction-resistant. It is an excellent insulator used in various forms and applications to which essentially everyone was exposed. The thousands of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) used in the products that surround us are of serious concern to public health officials and for good reason: asbestos exposure has already caused thousands of cases of lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma cancer, and other very serious disorders.
Working with Asbestos Exposes People to Cancer
The asbestos cancer risk is very real. The people who are at the greatest risk of asbestos exposure are those who work directly with asbestos: mining the mineral from the ground, processing asbestos, or making products that contain asbestos. By working with asbestos, these individuals are directly exposed. For workers who transport, install, or remove asbestos, risks are very high.
A partial list of the jobs of individuals who are at risk of developing asbestos cancer is as follows:
- Workers at facilities where an ACM-containing product is manufactured
- Asbestos removal workers
- Asbestos miners
- Workers at facilities where vermiculite ore from Libby, Montana, was processed
- Demolition workers
- Insulation workers
- Floor covering manufacturers or installers
- Drywallers, plasterers, painters
- Auto mechanics
- Plumbers, maintenance workers
- Iron workers
- Bricklayers, roofers, carpenters, electricians
- Furnace workers
- Pipe fitters
- School teachers
- Power plant workers
The states with the most cases of asbestos cancer are California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas.
Places Where Asbestos Is Present at High Levels
In addition to specific jobs that put an individual at risk for developing asbestos cancer, there are several asbestos industries that are known to have a greater asbestos cancer risk:
- Building construction
- Building demolition
- Automotive repair (on clutches and brakes)
- Shipyards and shipbuilding sites
- Oil refineries
- Mining operations
- Offshore rust removal operations
- Sand or abrasive manufacturing plants
- Steel mills
- Power plants
The Family Members of Asbestos Workers
Unfortunately, the dangers of asbestos exposure affect family members of asbestos workers, as well. They, too, are at risk of developing asbestos cancer. The federal government has recognized that it is entirely possible for significant asbestos exposure to occur simply from handling the clothing of someone who works with ACMs or from living with a person who may have work-related asbestos fibers on their hair, skin, and shoes. There are many documented cases of family members contracting an asbestos cancer disease in this manner because of the increased asbestos exposure risks.
Others Who May be at Risk of Mesothelioma Cancer
Neighborhoods near manufacturing plants:
- People living near plants manufacturing asbestos-containing products are also at risk of mesothelioma cancer, as fibers can be leaked into the environment.
Smokers developing mesothelioma cancer:
- While smoking is not directly related to mesothelioma, studies show smoking may trigger the disease in people who have been exposed to asbestos.
Women at risk of developing mesothelioma cancer:
- worked in industries that used asbestos
- have a husband, father, or other family member who worked with asbestos
- lived in communities that had asbestos-contaminated air, soil, or water
These primary and secondary types of exposure to asbestos cancer have resulted in thousands of women contracting mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Although the ratio of men to women with mesothelioma is about three to one, the numbers of cases of mesothelioma among women is rising. Secondary (secondhand) exposure to asbestos is more common among women than the primary (direct) exposure that so many male workers have suffered.
In many documented cases of mesothelioma among women, the asbestos exposure was from the microscopic fibers of asbestos that were brought home on the work clothes of men who worked in an asbestos-related industry.
Depending on the type of cancer developed, treatment options including things like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or even a combination these three.
Mesothelioma Victims & Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma cancer is the only form of cancer that is directly related to the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers, if separated, are extremely toxic. They are microscopic and can be easily inhaled. The tiny fibers can become embedded in the stomach, lungs, or heart and over time can accumulate and cause irritation. After a length of time, the fibers can lead to the development of mesothelioma, sometimes taking up to 50 years to fully develop.
Asbestos was used in industrial, maritime, automotive and building products during and around WWII because of its durability and strength. Many retired industrial workers are just now developing the disease, even though they may not have been exposed to asbestos in a long time.
If You Feel that You Have Had Excessive Asbestos Exposure
The most important thing to do after being diagnosed is to ask your physician for a list of mesothelioma cancer specialists and treatment centers in your area. Women who have been exposed to asbestos either directly or by way of a loved one should inform their physician, particularly if they are experiencing any abnormal symptoms. Physicians often misdiagnose female patients because the disease is especially rare in women. Mesothelioma treatment centers specialize in matching each individual victim with a specialist who can help design a treatment plan that suits their needs.
Legal help for Mesothelioma Victims
After finding a mesothelioma specialist, the next step is to find an attorney specializing in mesothelioma cases to help assess your situation to see if you qualify for compensation of medical bills. If you or a member of your family has been diagnosed with an asbestos cancer, don’t hesitate to contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today to learn more about the resources available to you.