No one knew until the 1960's that working around asbestos was dangerous to the health of workers. Asbestos fibers can get into the lungs and other internal organs and cause a serious form of cancer known as Mesothelioma. While the disease was first discovered in the 1960's, new cases of this cancer found primarily along the lining of the lungs are being found today.
And while safety law enforcement officials check for asbestos in the workplace, workers are not always aware of hazards where they work.
Most people don't know what products in today's market contain asbestos. What the general public hears about most is the asbestos in industrial products like the thermal insulation that is used in joint compounds, ceiling tiles, or pipe coverings. Asbestos is actually a fiber woven from silicate materials and since it is a fiber with insulating properties, it is actually also woven into fabrics in order to increase their insulation properties. Other common items that contain asbestos are vinyl-asbestos floor tile, roofing felt, pipe wrap and millboard.
The United States is actively working to reduce exposure to airborne asbestos in the workplace. However, other countries continue to use hazardous forms of asbestos in products that are imported into this country. Compounding the problems of asbestos is the fact that asbestos-containing building materials were used extensively in the 1960's and 1970's. Many homes and schools that were built during that time period show high levels of airborne asbestos.
Once the minute and virtually invisible asbestos fibers are airborne, with sufficient exposure people are at risk for developing Mesothelioma. Just as a person is generally unaware of their exposure to airborne asbestos, so too are they generally unaware of the cancer that is developing in their body. The most likely place to succumb to Mesothelioma is the mesothelium of the lungs. The second most prevalent area of the body for Mesothelioma is the mesothelium of the stomach.
While people of any age can be stricken with Mesothelioma, the cancer typically occurs 30 to 50 years after the exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately the early symptoms of Mesothelioma are not remarkable or unique. Symptoms may include routine occurrences such as a persistent cough, constipation or fever. Other symptoms may be weight loss, chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and stomach pain and swelling, all depending upon the type of Mesothelioma that the person has.
Mesothelioma typically attacks the lungs, causing pleural Mesothelioma. Peritoneal Mesothelioma attacks the outer lining of the stomach and pericardial Mesothelioma affects the area around the heart.
Surgical intervention is routinely used to treat Mesothelioma. This involves removal of the cancerous portions of the affected organ. Surgery is typically followed by chemotherapy or radiation. Mesothelioma must be treated aggressively because many people die within six months without aggressive long-term treatment.