Asbestos and Mesothelioma Cancer

(May 20, 2012) – Asbestos is responsible for approximately 10,000 deaths per year in the U.S., however, it is still not banned in the U.S. or Canada. Mesothelioma is one of the rarest cancers in the world.  It attacks the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. The only known cause of mesothelioma appears to be asbestos particles in the air that you breathe. Mesothelioma is a fatal disease of the mesothelium, which is the outer covering that surrounds most of our internal organs. It can take as long as 20-50 years before symptoms are present from exposure to asbestos.


In light of its dangers, asbestos is still not banned in our country or in Canada. It is still in use in a variety of products used daily. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that there are 3,000 different types of commercial products being used in the U.S. today that contain asbestos. This includes building materials, brake pads, and tire retardant materials and products.  Other occupations exposed to asbestos are boiler or furnace repairman, automobile mechanic working on brakes or clutches, construction workers, shipyard workers, and railway workers, among other occupations. The family members of these workers are also placed at risk…many cases of second hand asbestos exposure has recently been reported by wives and children of men who worked in shipyards in World War II. Asbestos deteriorates as it ages, allowing particles into the air. Particles get into the air when the asbestos is disturbed. The chance of getting an asbestos-related illness increases with the amount and duration of being exposed to it.


The asbestos rules and regulations in the U.S. primarily come from the EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Workers are protected by OSHA regulations, and the general public and school children are protected by EPA regulations. It contains rules that apply to all construction, remodeling, and demolition activities performed in public buildings and apartment buildings, and most other occupations that involve asbestos. Workers must be advised that they are working with or near asbestos.


In its natural state, asbestos is harmless. However, when it is broken down and disturbed, the fibers separate and become airborne. Because the fibers are so tiny, they are easily inhaled through the mouth or nose and become lodged in the lining of the lungs. As the fibers accumulate, they can cause severe irritation that can lead to the development of fatal illness such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other types of cancer.


Anyone who is exposed to asbestos may be at risk, however, people that are exposed to large amounts for long periods of time are at the greatest risk of developing an asbestos illness. People who work directly with asbestos on a daily basis are at the greatest risk. This includes workers who directly handle asbestos and those who are exposed through significant environmental contact.


Today, federal and state government regulate asbestos exposure in the workplace. These laws require people who work in high risk occupations to wear protective clothing and respiratory equipment when handling asbestos. Employers are responsible for providing their employees with safety gear and proper training for the safe handling of asbestos.


As mentioned above, asbestos illnesses can take up to 50 years to develop. If you were exposed to large amounts of asbestos in the past, you might still be at risk. If you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, sudden weight loss, persistent nausea or vomiting, chest pain, heart palpitations, persistent cough, fever or fatigue, you should seek medical attention. Preliminary diagnosis may result from chest x-ray and CT scan.  Treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery still has poor results.  Be sure to tell your doctor about your prior history of asbestos exposure if you experience any of these symptoms.


What do you think should be done about the use of asbestos in the U.S. and Canada, despite its known risks? Should it be more closely monitored? Should it be banned entirely? We look forward to hearing your feedback. Follow us on Twitter, and become a fan of our Facebook page. If you have any questions, stop by our website, or contact one of our attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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