Mesothelioma and Asbestos
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, chest wall or abdomen, and is named after the mesothelial cells that compose these tissues.
Despite the strides medicine has made in treating the disease, Mesothelioma is usually fatal. The only widely recognized cause of mesothelioma is asbestos, and the widespread manufacture and use of asbestos products in the United States has caused an epidemic of mesothelioma.
Several factors make mesothelioma a particularly insidious disease:
- The illness does not arise until many years after the first exposure – sometimes as long as 40 years later
- There is no known “threshold” exposure level. That is, there is no known level of exposure below which someone is safe from developing mesothelioma
- There have been reported cases of mesothelioma where the exposure to asbestos was relatively minor
Over the years, asbestos exposures have occurred in many ways. Workers in asbestos manufacturing plants were heavily exposed because they used raw asbestos to make the products. The asbestos products they manufactured were then applied and removed in other settings by workers, who were then exposed to the asbestos emitted from the products. In recent years, there have been many cases of mesothelioma in the family members of these workers who carried the asbestos into their homes on their work clothes.
Some industries where asbestos has been heavily used are: railroads, refineries, powerhouses, shipyards, boatyards, steel mills, automotive, insulation, construction, bakeries, paper mills, drywalling, and many others.