Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, silicate in nature, and highly heat-resistant. This material is mostly used to make fireproof materials. Asbestos materials are always hazardous when inhaled over a long period of time because their harmful fibers get trapped in the body. This asbestos exposure, especially in industries, leads to serious diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Mesothelioma is known to be a cancer of the tissue lining critical internal body organs like the lungs, stomach, and heart. Although over 50 nations across the world banned the use of asbestos, it’s the US that still uses the mineral due to historical complications in law and regulation. If you’ve worked in any of the industries below, you are likely to have been exposed to asbestos. It is crucial to note that getting regular tests and early diagnosis is important in managing asbestos mesothelioma.
The industries with high asbestos exposure risks include:
- Abrasive Manufactures – These industries use asbestos material as friction generators and heat insulators. Materials produced are used in different sectors such as construction and auto parts manufacturing.
- Asbestos product manufacturing – Companies that make asbestos products and have inadequate ventilation greatly increase the risk of exposure.
- Chemical plants – Chemical manufacturers often used asbestos materials as insulators for equipment and pipes.
- Construction companies – Products like cement have a high risk of asbestos exposure to construction workers.
- Maritime companies – Shipbuilders frequently use asbestos as an insulator and fireproofing material.
- Mining companies – Minerals such as talc contain asbestos contaminants that pose serious health risks to miners.
- Oil refineries – Oil refinery equipment like boilers and pipes use asbestos as insulation and fireproofing material.
- Tile installation – Many joint compounds use asbestos as filler material. As the compounds get dried, asbestos fibers are ejected into the air, hence, workers getting exposed.
Diseases Caused by Asbestos
There are two major diseases caused by asbestos exposure:
- Malignant or cancerous
Benign asbestos-related diseases
Benign asbestos-related diseases are most commonly compared to asbestos-related malignancies. The difference between the two is the exposure intensity that causes a health condition. Both may develop after one exposure, but malignant conditions mainly occur after years of cumulative exposure.
These diseases comprise:
- Pleural effusions
- Pericardial effusions
- Pleural plaques
Malignant asbestos-related diseases
Individuals who have inhaled or ingested large amounts of asbestos fibers for extended periods of time, especially many years, have a high risk of developing asbestos-related tumors. Such malignant asbestos-related diseases include:
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
Kidney and throat cancers can possibly be associated with asbestos exposure.
However, the connection between asbestos and these malignant tumors is minimal. Asbestos is suspected to be a risk contributor, but the direct link has not yet been established.
Steps to take if you have been exposed:
- Learn more about the disease – Pose many questions to your doctor about the disease. For example, what are the affected organs or parts in your body? What are the symptoms you should expect? Etc.
- Get a second opinion – If your doctor does not have much experience in treating mesothelioma, seek a second opinion from an experienced doctor.
- Contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney to discuss your legal options in filing an asbestos claim.
- Seek social, emotional, and professional support – You can rely on family members and friends for support since this is an important component of your care.
- Learn about your financial and legal options – According to the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, mesothelioma patients go through psychological and emotional distress because of financial difficulties.
Suppose you are a factory worker tasked with making asbestos products or coming into contact with these harmful materials, you should take preventative measures, like wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus, and be more vigilant in monitoring the dangers to your health from exposure. Take all the necessary measures to protect yourself and the family from encountering this experience.