Asbestos Health Effects
It is estimated that 10,000 Americans die every year from asbestos related diseases.
Doctors and researchers began to notice a large number of deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns in 1917 and 1918. It was assumed the illness was directly related to the airborne dust that resulted from the mining process.
The first diagnosis of asbestosis was made in 1892. Asbestosis was named from a doctor who first claimed the condition is directly related from exposure to asbestos minerals. The patient was a women who had worked in an asbestos mine for 20 years. A discovery was found soon after her case, that even after exposure to asbestos is stopped, health effects from the initial exposure may continue to progress and worsen… This lead to many medical journals (in the 1930’s) publishing articles claiming that asbestos is cancerous.
Asbestos-related diseases usually occur in people who have worked with fairly high levels of asbestos for a long time who were not protected from breathing-in the fibers. Mesothelioma is the lung-cancer that is directly related from asbestos. Fibers may be inhaled or ingested from the dust that is caused by mining, creating or disturbing asbestos based products.
The fibers are very small and can remain in the air for several hours once disturbed. The fibers that can be inhaled deep into the lung are too small to see and have no odour. Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer of the lining of the lung or abdominal cavities and is always fatal in 6-18 months after diagnosis. None of the asbestos-related diseases have early warning symptoms and are usually diagnosed several years (20-50 years) after the disease begins to develop. Symptoms include shortness of breath and fluid / pain in the lungs. Unlike lung cancer, mesothelioma is incurable and typically result in negative prognosis. The cancer is not associated with smoking (although smoking will increase the risk of mesothelioma). Often legal cases are found today that seek compensation for individuals who worked in the field that was related to asbestos, and have been diagnosed with asbestos-based cancer.
Asbestosis (not a cancer) is a chronic lung condition where the lungs become scarred and thickened. Breathing becomes very difficult and the disease may get worse over time, even after the person is not exposed. There is no curative treatment for asbestosis, and shares often traits of mesothelioma. This disease(s) has been diagnosed in asbestos workers, family members, and residents who live close to asbestos mines. People who work in the construction industry (particularly building demolition and renovation activities are often exposed to this type of environment. Second hand exposure, from indirect use, can often cause health issues related to asbestos. Most often, such cases involve women or children who inhaled asbestos fibers that were brought home on the clothing of someone who did have direct daily contact with the material (spouse, father, grandfather, or brother).
For example, many recently discovered cases of second-hand exposure include wives and children of World War II shipyard workers who were exposed to large amounts of damaged or “friable’ asbestos while on the job. On a larger scale, many small town has been devastated by asbestos caused illnesses, as mentioned before, by the presence of asbestos mines. The town of Libby, Montana was home to the now-defunct W.R. Grace vermiculite mine. The vermiculite, which was contaminated with asbestos, was used for Grace’s Zonolite insulation product. Though the mine has been closed since 1991, hundreds in this little town of 12,000 have been sickened with asbestosis and mesothelioma and more than 200 have already died.