With the proliferation of websites, television advertisements, and lawsuits addressing “mesothelioma,” many people have asked us exactly what the disease is and who may be more likely to develop it. In this article, we will answer these and other questions.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer which develops in the lining of the organs. According to WebMD, 2,500 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma occur yearly, with approximately 75 percent occurring in the lungs and 15–20 percent occurring in the abdomen. The recommended treatment will depend upon the stage of the cancer at the time it is discovered. Unfortunately, many deaths result from mesothelioma.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
While genetics and other factors can play a role, exposure to asbestos fibers is considered to be the primary cause of mesothelioma.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the term applied to six naturally-occurring minerals. Historically, asbestos was prized as a strong and flexible mineral with heat resistant properties which make it useful in many products and industries. In fact, asbestos is known to have been used in ancient cultures, including the Greek and Roman civilizations.
Commercial mining of asbestos began in the 19th Century. Many countries, including the United States, have produced asbestos through the years. According to the United States Geological Survey, all U.S. domestic mining of asbestos ceased in 2002. However, in 2016, approximately 340 tons of asbestos were imported into the United States. Approximately 95 percent of the imports originated from Brazil, with five percent coming from Russia.
What Makes Asbestos Dangerous?
The dangers associated with asbestos arise when the fibers become airborne and are inhaled or swallowed. Asbestos is often labeled as friable and non-friable. Friable asbestos is dangerous, because it can be easily crumbled or crushed, thereby creating the dangerous airborne particles. Doctors believe that asbestos, when inhaled or ingested over a long period of time, creates irritation of the victim’s tissue, which leads to cancer.
Who Is Most Likely to Develop Mesothelioma?
People exposed to asbestos over a long period of time are more likely to develop mesothelioma. In fact, some people who develop the disease do not have symptoms until twenty or more years after the exposure started. The good news is that asbestos is now used far less than in the past and laws and safety rules have been put in place to protect workers. The bad news is that before these changes occurred, many industries continued using asbestos in dangerous ways, even after learning of its harmful effects to human health. In fact, some companies intentionally hid the dangers of asbestos exposure from their employees. Only after very strong-willed victims and their families filed suit and fought these companies in court did the system finally start to hold these wrong-doers accountable for their actions. However, because the disease can take so long to develop, people exposed many years ago can still become sick.
What Are Some Common Industries with Asbestos Exposure?
Asbestos exposure has occurred in many industries and employment positions. The following are some of the most common:
- Shipbuilding, including construction in shipyards, and service on ships;
- Construction industry, including the manufacture of many construction products;
- Automobile and automobile repair industry;
- Janitors and others exposed to older buildings.
Speak with an Attorney
At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we believe that the best way to protect society from wrongful actions is to hold the wrongdoers responsible. If you think you are being exposed to asbestos now, take immediate steps to make sure you are properly protecting your health. If you believe you have been harmed by exposure to asbestos, but have questions, please contact us. Our lawyers are experienced and understand the laws concerning asbestos and mesothelioma. We will be happy to answer your questions and set up a free consultation.
United States Geological Survey Asbestos Summary: https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/asbestos/mcs-2017-asbes.pdf
WebMD article – “What Are the Types of Mesothelioma?” – http://www.webmd.com/cancer/types-of-mesothelioma#2