Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs naturally in the environment as fibers which has been linked to mesothelioma and other cancers. It can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope and is resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and does not conduct electricity. This mineral is a silicate compound and can be divided into two major groups:
- Serpentine asbestos
- Amphibole asbestos
Serpentine asbestos includes the mineral chrysotile, which has long, curly fibers that can be woven. Chrysotile is the form that has been used most widely in commercial applications.
Amphibole asbestos includes the minerals actinolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and amosite. Amphibole has straight, needle-like fibers that are more brittle than those of serpentine asbestos and are more limited in their ability to be fabricated.
These fibers have been used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of industrial and household products in the United States and around the world.
Connection to Mesothelioma Cancer
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of the fibers can lead to an increased risk of:
- lung cancer
- mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity
- asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.
The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of asbestos fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke.
People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of the fiber for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20, 30, 40 to even 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
Most people exposed to small amounts of the fiber, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs.
The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. The material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.
Asbestos is a mineral that was once widely used in variety of industries – including the oil and plastics industry, construction, and shipbuilding – to manufacture a variety of household and industrial products in the United States and around the world.
And over the years, many different occupations have come in contact with asbestos fibers including, ship builders, military – army, navy and marine personnel (machinist mates), carpenters, factory workers, brake manufacturers and railroad workers to name a few.
Quite shocking are the reports that an estimated 27 million workers in the United States were exposed to aerosolized asbestos fibers between 1940 and 1979. Asbestos exposure has been linked to or is a possible cause of mesothelioma cancer (pleural, peritoneal…).
Unfortunately, and most disturbing, are the studies published by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center For Disease Control (“CDC”), in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”), that reveal that about 3,000 people are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma cancer in the United States every year.
As shown in the CDC/NIOSH report, men are more likely to develop malignant mesothelioma cancer than are women, and that malignant mesothelioma is more common in older adults – people over 65. The entire report on mesothelioma is available at the CDC/NIOSH website.
According to the American Cancer Society, the life expectancy and survival rate after diagnosis with mesothelioma is about one year. But, there is always hope and progress for treatment options or new ways to cure this horrible disease afflicting mesothelioma victims.
Malignant (cancerous) mesothelioma – which has been closely linked to or is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers is a horrible and devastating rare form of cancer that occurs in the mesothelium – a thin protective layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs.
People who develop this rare form of cancer were most likely exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers while working in various industries to support their families. It is common for the development of mesothelioma to occur 20 or sometimes even 40 years after initial exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos fibers have been used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of industrial and household products in the United States and around the world.
For more on asbestos and mesothelioma cases, please follow this link: Asbestos and Mesothelioma.
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