Mesothelioma and Asbestos
Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a combination of several minerals held together by silky strands of fibers. These fireproof fibers do not burn, and do not conduct heat or electricity. Because asbestos does not conduct heat well and is resistant to melting or burning, asbestos was used widely in all types of construction products up to the mid-1970s. Other products made with asbestos, such as insulation materials and automotive clutches and brakes, were designed principally to contain heat and sound.
Chrysotile asbestos is the main cause of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The three most common forms of asbestos are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. Chrysotile or white asbestos accounts for approximately 95% of the asbestos used in US production of asbestos products and is the only member of the serpentine group of minerals.
The fine fibers of asbestos made it a great source for insulation and as a fire retardant but they their entry into the human body can trigger the onset of mesothelioma. Sometimes the asbestos fibers enter the body through the air and are breathed into the lung area of the body. Once they are taken in through the respiratory passages these fibers lodge themselves in the mesothelial cells around the lungs. This can cause direct damage to the lungs by traveling to the ends of small passages and reach the pleura area around the lungs.
Once lodged in the plural area these fibers can injure lung cells and cause lung cancer or asbestosis which is a term used to describe replacing healthy lung tissue with damaged or scar tissue. In addition, asbestos fibers can also be directly swallowed by people working in close of confined spaces with exposed asbestos. These fibers can go directly to the stomach and abdominal cavity and may lead to the development of stomach cancer or peritoneal mesothelioma.
The most common way to get is through directly working with asbestos as part of a job or career. Many people get mesothelioma as a result of their jobs working in mining, construction, shipbuilding and any other job that required a regular exposure to asbestos fibers. It is possible as well to get mesothelioma from being exposed to asbestos fibers in your home of office. Many houses still contain asbestos lined insulation that can be a grave danger if it becomes opened or exposed to humans. As long as the asbestos remains in a sealed unit or wrapped around a pipe with its exterior sealant intact, there is little danger. But if any of these materials break out of their sealed units they could easily contaminate any one who comes into contact with them.
Finally it is also possible to develop mesothelioma through direct physical contact with the clothes of someone else that has come directly into contact with asbestos. There are numerous cases of wives and spouses of miners and construction workers who have developed mesothelioma from breathing in the fibers that their husbands or wives brought home with them from the plant, mine or construction site. If that person worked in the insulation industry at a time when asbestos use was at its peak they have a much higher chance of developing this deadly disease than others who may have had minimal exposure to asbestos fibers as a result of their daily working activities.
Today mesothelioma is one of the most commonly recognized industrial or workplace diseases and special programs have been developed to recognize mesothelioma symptoms and to provide support to those who suffer from this disease.
Helpful Resources to help you learn more about Asbestos:
- National Cancer Institute for more Asbestos exposure facts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website for more Asbestos information
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration Government website for more Asbestos information
- Enviromental Protection Agency Government website for more Asbestos information