Mesothelioma & Asbestos
Asbestos Exposure – The Primary Cause of Mesothelioma
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with heat-resistant and insulating properties. People have been using asbestos for thousands of years. Asbestos has been used commercially – for example, in mining, construction, shipbuilding and the automotive industry – for more than a century. It has been used to create products such as fire-resistant materials, insulation, floor and ceiling tiles and automobile brake linings. Many new uses were found during World Wars I and II.
Asbestos (3 main types)
(White Asbestos) This was the
form of asbestos used predominantly in products manufactured in the
United States. Although small amounts of chrysotile were mined in the
United States, the overwhelming majority of the asbestos was mined in
Canada and then shipped into the United States.Chrysotile asbestos is
known as serpentine because it is found in serpentine rock.
When asbestos fibers are released into the air, the fibers can be inhaled and swallowed. It is believed that the fibers cause illnesses by irritating cells (in the case of mesothelioma, the cells of the pleura or peritoneum). It wasn’t until the 1950s that a clear relationship between asbestos exposure and lung cancer was recognized; a relationship between asbestos and malignant mesothelioma wasn’t documented until 1960. People exposed to asbestos are at greater risk for lung cancer than mesothelioma. In addition, the risk for lung cancer is 60- to 90-fold greater in smokers exposed to asbestos than in nonsmokers with similar exposure levels. Asbestos exposure can also cause asbestosis (a chronic lung disease) and a number of other cancers. Today, as many as 8 million Americans have had work-related asbestos exposure. People who work in any of the industries in which asbestos is used have an increased risk for all asbestos-related illnesses. In addition, family members of people with occupational exposure to asbestos have a small but significantly increased risk because the fibers can be carried on the clothing and hair of those exposed. Since 1972, people who work with asbestos are required to shower and change clothes before leaving the workplace. Even people without these risk factors may have been exposed to asbestos, because asbestos-containing materials were used in the construction of many older buildings. When these materials deteriorate, asbestos fibers are released into the air. The danger occurs if the material containing asbestos deteriorates or is in some way disturbed (for example, by construction or demolition). If you live in an older home and plan a remodeling project, you may need to hire experts to safely remove or encapsulate any asbestos in your home. Incidence rates of malignant mesothelioma are expected to peak around the year 2000, as people who were exposed to asbestos in the 1950s and 1960s develop the disease (symptoms typically do not occur until 20 to 40 years after exposure). After the year 2000, the number of cases is expected to decline. Now that the dangers of asbestos are well understood, the use of asbestos declines each year, and industries that use asbestos have implemented safeguards against exposure. There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. For this reason, everyone is advised to avoid any exposure.
The History of Asbestos
the history of asbestos is central to understanding why a Mesothelioma
victim is entitled to just compensation for damages. If you have Mesothelioma,
you are invariably a victim of asbestos, a material whose danger was
known as early as the 1930s. Many asbestos manufacturers and corporate
users of asbestos materials ignored the scientific data showing asbestos’s
lethality. In the end, workers who had to work with the material were
the ones who suffered. Today, those workers have a right to fair compensation
for their suffering and health bills.
Asbestos in the Home This section discusses the presence of asbestos in houses, rental apartments, schools and other public buildings, and has a list of useful EPA contacts.
Does Your House Contain Asbestos? It is very common for homes built or remodeled before the 1970’s to have asbestos-containing materials in them. During the twentieth century, about 30 million tons of asbestos fiber were used in the United States, and some of this asbestos ended up in residential buildings. These websites describe where asbestos-containing materials might be found in and around an older house:
If you have purchased a
home or are considering the purchase of one, the presence of asbestos
is not necessarily a problem. The majority of individuals with asbestos-related
diseases have been in the business of manufacturing, installing and/or
removing asbestos products. Fortunately, most people exposed to small
amounts of asbestos do not develop asbestos-related health problems.
However, there is no known "safe" level of exposure, therefore,
all exposure to asbestos should be avoided. Asbestos is a health hazard
when it is friable – when it crumbles and releases particles into the
air. If the asbestos-containing materials are intact (not friable) and
in a location where they are unlikely to be disturbed by remodeling
or renovation, removal is not always the best option. Other options
include encapsulating (sealing) it or covering it. If you suspect your
house contains asbestos, we strongly recommend you use a trained and
certified union technician to help you decide the appropriate action
to take. The EPA recommends that you ask these asbestos professionals
to document their completion of federal or state-approved training.
Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training
and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training.
The EPA also recommends using separate firms for assessment and removal
services, to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Unless it is labeled,
it is not always possible to determine if a product contains asbestos
without laboratory analysis. Therefore, until a suspected product is
tested, it is best to assume that it contains asbestos and not disturb
it in any way. You can get names and contact information for accredited
testing laboratories from The National Institute for Standards and Technology
(NIST). Laboratory Accreditation Administration
Does Your Apartment Contain Asbestos? Asbestos-containing products were widely used in the construction of houses, apartments, offices and schools up to the 1970’s. However, the presence of asbestos-containing products in your rental unit is not necessarily a hazardous condition. It is only when asbestos-containing products break down and become airborne (i.e. friable) that a hazardous condition is created. In 1995, OSHA issued workplace standards for testing, maintenance and disclosure of asbestos. Rental property owners were considered to fall in the category of "general industry" and therefore were covered by these OSHA regulations. Unless the property owner rules out the presence of asbestos through testing, it is presumed that asbestos is present. When a landlord complies with OSHA regulations, performs testing, and discovers friable asbestos in a rental property, s/he is obligated to disclose this hidden and dangerous defect to the tenants. The presence of friable asbestos in rental property might be considered a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, and a tenant may be able to seek legal remedies. If such a situation exists and you are unable to resolve the matter without legal recourse, we recommend that you contact us.
Asbestos in Schools Asbestos-containing products were used extensively in the construction of schools and other public buildings, until the 1970’s. In 1986, Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to protect public and private school children and school employees from asbestos exposure. AHERA acknowledges that asbestos materials in schools that are intact generally do not pose a health risk, and includes provisions to monitor the condition of asbestos-containing materials, to manage the materials, and to keep open the lines of communication between all interested parties. The provisions of AHERA are relevant for schools in the United States and its possessions.
Provisions of AHERA Each school must designate and train a person to oversee asbestos-related activities in the school. This person can be a consultant or a school employee. All buildings must be inspected for the presence of asbestos-containing materials. A management plan for controlling asbestos exposure must be developed, using accredited inspection personnel to implement the plan. All records should be available for public review. All teachers, parents and employees should be informed annually about the asbestos-related activities in the school.
Further Information on Mesothelioma & Asbestos If you have questions regarding asbestos in a particular school, you can speak to the person designated at that school to oversee asbestos-related issues. You can also speak to your local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Asbestos Regional coordinator (listed below) or call the Environmental Protection Agency Asbestos Ombudsman at (800)368-5888. National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interesting discussion about asbestos abatement, on Morning Edition on March 20,2000. The program focuses on a large federal investigation of the New York abatement industry, but many of the points are of nationwide relevance