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Mesothelioma and asbestos
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Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. EPA and CPSC have banned several asbestos products. Manufacturers have also voluntarily limited uses of asbestos. Today, asbestos is most commonly found in older homes, in pipe and furnace insulation materials, asbestos shingles, millboard, textured paints and other coating materials, and floor tiles.
Four types of asbestos have been used commercially:
Chrysotile asbestos, with its curly fibers, is in the serpentine family of minerals. The other types of asbestos, which all have rod-like fibers, are known as amphiboles.
Asbestos fiber masses tend to break easily into a dust composed of tiny particles that can float in the air and stick to clothes. The fibers may be easily inhaled or swallowed and can cause serious health problems.
Elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur after asbestos-containing materials are disturbed by cutting, sanding or other remodeling activities. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in those homes.
Natural asbestos is found in two varieties: serpentine asbestos and amphibole asbestos. Approximately 90% of serpentine is the variety chrysotile, while amphibole asbestos includes crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite asbestos, actinole asbestos, and tremolite asbestos.
Asbestos has been observed to cause four health disorders. Asbestosis results in stiffening of the lung, and has resulted in the deaths of many miners. Lung cancer has a higher incidence in miners who also smoke, with the chance of developing cancer roughly proportional to the amount smoked. Asbestos-induced cancer is found only rarely in nonsmokers. Among the various type of asbestos, chrysotile workers have the lowest incidence of cancer.
Mesothelioma involves the development of a fatal tumor. The time between diagnosis and original exposure is commonly 30 years or more. Family members of miners are also at risk. Among the general population, 70-80% of all mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. A staggering 18% of all mortalities in crocidolite workers are the result of mesothelioma. Benign pleural changes also occur to an extent proportional to exposure, but rarely cause functional impairment.
Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found In The Home?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the following represents areas in the home in which asbestos hazards may be found:
Unusually for cancer, we do know what causes the majority of cases of mesothelioma. It is most often linked to exposure to asbestos. We have known of a link between asbestos and lung disease since the beginning of the 18th century. But the link with mesothelioma has only been known since the 1960's. Unfortunately, the number of cases of mesothelioma in the UK each year is expected to rise sharply over the next 20 years because of the heavy use of asbestos in industry in the years following the second world war.
Between 7 and 8 out of every 10 people (70 – 80%) diagnosed with mesothelioma say they have been in contact with asbestos. Your risk is greater if you were exposed to large amounts of it from an early age for a very long period of time. But there are some cases that say they have no history of any heavy exposure to asbestos.
Many people who develop mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure may be eligible for compensation. You should talk to a solicitor about this as early as possible. Your specialist doctor or nurse may be able to give you some information on this from their dealings with other mesothelioma patients. Or some of the mesothelioma organisations in Help and Support should be able to help.
How does asbestos cause mesothelioma?
Asbestos is made up of tiny fibres. You can breathe these fibres in when you come into contact with asbestos. The fibres work their way into the pleura, lining the lung. They irritate the pleura and damage the cells that the pleura are made of. Some of the fibres that have been breathed in can be coughed up and swallowed. This is probably the cause of peritoneal mesothelioma.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, your family may also have been exposed. Asbestos fibres can be carried home on your clothes. Research studies have confirmed that the family of people exposed to asbestos also have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma can develop up to 40 years after the initial asbestos exposure. The incidence of mesothelioma rises with the intensity and duration of asbestos exposure. Cases have been documented of mesothelioma among people with very little asbestos exposure. Many of those who are being diagnosed with mesothelioma today unknowingly experienced asbestos exposure many years ago.
Tradesmen who have a risk of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma include:
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