Mesothelioma and Asbestos


The relationship between mesothelioma and asbestos can be stated very simply: almost every known instance of mesothelioma has been caused by previous exposure to asbestos.

The Employment of Asbestos in Developed Countries 

Asbestos is used in over 3,000 modern products. As a result, many people have probably experienced at least some degree of exposure to this mineral at some point in their lives.

Many instances of asbestos exposure result from handling building materials such as concrete, insulation, and siding.

Regular monitoring of these materials in the manufacturing process is important as a method of preventing asbestos from becoming airborne fibers.

Unfortunately, because asbestos exposure is so widespread, it is impossible to compute the damage that even a small quantity can cause.

The lightweight nature of asbestos particles facilitates airborne spreading of these deadly carcinogens. This is why most asbestos-related diseases affect the respiratory system.

Even tiny amounts of asbestos can inflict irreversible damage that becomes apparent twenty or more year later when the first symptoms of mesothelioma manifest themselves.

Ironically, asbestos is a dangerous and potentially deadly substance that was once seen as a manufacturing miracle and widely used in a hundreds of items from ceiling and wall tiles to insulation and auto brakes.

In the past, most people outside of the asbestos industry were unaware of the dangers of this mineral.

Over time, however, the dangers and deadly effects of asbestos have become increasingly apparent as more mesothelioma cases are reported every day.

Concerns About Asbestos, Mesothelioma and Vermiculite

Recently, there has been an increasing concern with asbestos, mesothelioma and vermiculite.

Vermiculite is a natural, non-toxic mineral that expands when exposed to heat. While not all vermiculite contains asbestos, some products, however, have been made with vermiculite that contains asbestos.

Concern with vermiculite, asbestos, and mesothelioma actually has a historical underpinning.

More specifically, most of the vermiculite that has been produced in the world was mined in the United Stares at a mine in Libby, Montana.

The mine in Libby continued to produce vermiculite from the 1920s until it ceased operation in 1990.

The reason that vermiculite was produced was the fact that it was used in potting soil, fertilizer, and in building insulation.

The reason for concern by mesothelioma activists, however, is the fact that the vermiculite that was produced from the Libby mine contained a form of naturally-occurring asbestos called tremolite-actinolite.

Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until between twenty and fifty years after exposure, which explains why so many new cases of this form of cancer are currently being reported. Many people who haven't been in contact with asbestos for decades are now showing symptoms of this dreadful disease.

The concern about vermiculite, asbestos, and mesothelioma has the following form of logic: breathing asbestos fibers poses a great health risk. The amount of asbestos to which a person is exposed depends on two factors: the number of asbestos fibers in the air and how long the air containing the asbestos fibers is breathed.

Since the vermiculite produced at the Libby mine contained asbestos, people who were exposed to this asbestos for an extended period of time are prime candidates for developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

The Asbestos Survey

If you suspect that you have asbestos in your house or business, you should consider contacting an asbestos consultant or a licensed asbestos expert.

Asbestos consultants are trained to check for the presence of asbestos-containing materials in residential and commercial structures. Checking for asbestos means conducting an asbestos survey and taking samples for analysis.

A key part of the survey analysis is to determine the extent to which existing asbestos material is friable. Friable asbestos is a term used to describe any asbestos-containing material that when dry, can be easily crumbled or pulverized to powder by hand.

Material that contains even 1% or more asbestos and is friable is considered to be a regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM).

If asbestos is found in your home or business, but it is not friable, the Air Pollution Control District (APCD) will probably recommend leaving it undisturbed. The APCD will also make your aware of the ways to avoid damaging the asbestos material so that the release of fibers is avoided.

Remember that sweeping, dusting, or using a household vacuum will only make fibers airborne. Once airborne, the fibers can be so minuscule that they can pass through household filters while being invisible to the naked eye.

Materials that contain even 1% asbestos and are friable are considered to be regulated asbestos-containing materials (RACM).

Some common examples of friable asbestos are joint compound or “mud,” wallboard, acoustic ceilings and tiles, many types of plasters, and thermal insulation for water heaters and pipes.

Although the use of asbestos in these products was banned by 1978, those already in the marketplace remained on the shelves and were used in construction many years after 1978. Unfortunately, many of these products are still commonly found in homes today.

If the survey reveals that your home or business contains friable asbestos, then a licensed asbestos contractor should be hired to remove the material legally and safely. This should also be done If you want to remodel or perform other repairs to the areas containing the friable asbestos materials.

Unfortunately this is relatively expensive, due to the hazards involved and the care that must be taken in order to properly remove the friable asbestos. Keep in mind that if a home or building is being demolished for any reason, the law requires a licensed asbestos contractor to remove all ACM and friable asbestos prior to demolition.

Once airborne, asbestos fibers can be so minuscule that they can pass through household filters while being invisible to the naked eye.

The Asbestos Removal Process

Before removal, the asbestos materials must be wet to eliminate possible fiber release and anti-dust emission controls (similar to large specialty vacuums) are usually employed. The removed material must be treated as hazardous waste, must be double-bagged, and disposed of only at landfills approved by the Division of Air Quality to accept asbestos waste.

All asbestos waste must be transported and disposed of in double sealed waste containers with the appropriate asbestos label. In addition, you must write your last name and address where the waste was generated on each container prior to removal from your home or business.

Moreover, the asbestos waste must be transported in a manner that will not permit the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Finally, asbestos debris should be transported in a covered vehicle.

There is strong evidence in the medical literature that the dangers of asbestos exposure were known long before millions of American workers were exposed.

Non-Friable Asbestos-Containing Materials

A non-friable asbestos-containing material (ACM) is not regulated because it contains a binder or hardening agent such as cement, asphalt or vinyl. Examples of ACM are transite siding made with cement, vinyl asbestos floor tiles, and asphalt roofing shingles. ACM products are still being manufactured today.

The danger with this type of material, however, is that it can pose the same hazard as friable asbestos during remodeling, repairs or other construction. Moreover, burning ACM also creates friable asbestos.

Asbestos Caused Diseases

Asbestos disease, mesothelioma cancers, lung cancers and asbestosis are the diseases caused because of asbestos exposure. Asbestos constitutes different naturally occurring fibrous minerals in some rocks and soil. It has found widespread use in industries and building materials such as fireproofing, roofing shingles, electric insulation, furnace, hot pipe covering, and friction products.

Although asbestos is a hazardous material, it poses a health risk only if the asbestos fibers become airborne and subsequently inhaled. Therefore, most asbestos materials pose little health risk unless they are disturbed in a way that allows the fibers to become friable and released into the atmosphere.

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to serious diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs or lower digestive tract) and asbestosis (a chronic fibrosis of the lungs).

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal lining. It exclusively related to asbestos exposure. By the time it is diagnosed, it is usually fatal. Mesothelioma has a long latency period (time between exposure and onset of disease) of at least 15 years and sometimes as long as 60 years.

Asbestosis is a scarring of the lung tissue. This scarring impairs the elasticity of the lung and hampers its ability to exchange gases. This leads to inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. Asbestosis restricts breathing leading to decreased lung volume and increased resistance in the airways. It is a slowly progressive disease with a latency period of 15 to 30 years.

Research has shown that asbestosis has sometimes affected the family members of those who worked with this substance. This is because the family members may have inhaled the dust and fibers from the work clothes, skin, and hair of the worker over a period of time.

Lung Cancer is a malignant tumor of the bronchi covering. The tumor grows through surrounding tissue, invading and often obstructing air passages. Again, the disease has a long latency period of at least 20 years.

The victims of asbestos-related diseases are eligible to file lawsuits for compensation against the persons and/or organizations responsible for causing the asbestos exposure. Through the employment of mesothelioma and asbestos cancer attorneys, victims have the hope of receiving a compensation settlement.

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