December 11, 2020
Mesothelioma is one of the only types of cancer that is non-genetic and completely preventable. People develop mesothelioma through contact with asbestos. The risk of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure affects many people, from people in trade industry jobs to homeowners taking on renovation projects. Because this cancer is so severe, it’s important to know where you can come into contact with asbestos in order to avoid exposure.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a lesser-known cancer that only 3,000 people are diagnosed with annually. Symptoms of mesothelioma align with less-serious respiratory ailments such as the flu or pneumonia, with patients experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pains. Once asbestos are inhaled or ingested, these needle-like fibers settle into the lining of organs, causing tumors to form over several decades. Most mesothelioma cases affect the lungs and respiratory system, however 15-20% of tumors manifest in the abdomen as well. Because this cancer has a latency period of 10-50 years, patients are most commonly diagnosed after stage 1, which can limit treatment options and prognosis.
Where Asbestos Exposure Occurs
Asbestos exposure is most common in skilled trades and building industries, accounting for more than 70% of mesothelioma related deaths. Asbestos was once championed as a “miracle material” because of its capability to withstand exposure to heat and chemicals. It was used heavily as an additive in thousands of products throughout the 1900s until stricter regulations were enacted in the 1980s. Common asbestos products can include:
● Ceiling Tiles
● Floor Tiles
Most people who work in the construction or demolition field are aware of the hazards asbestos poses. However, secondary asbestos exposure is a form of non-occupational exposure where an individual carries it off the job site. Families or individuals who live with workers in these fields and experience secondary exposure are twice as likely to develop asbestos-related diseases than the general public.
Where Asbestos May be in the Home
In homes built before the 1980s, asbestos are likely in the original structure and construction. While asbestos do not pose a threat if left alone, it becomes hazardous once disturbed. If asbestos in the home become damaged, fibers are released, which are then inhaled or ingested. Prior to beginning any sort of maintenance or renovation within your home, you should contact a certified asbestos professional to determine whether or not asbestos-containing materials (ACMS) are present. Since fibers are invisible to the naked eye, it’s critical to ensure that proper precautions are taken with these projects to mitigate exposure.
Asbestos have also been found in several consumer products that have led to people developing mesothelioma and other serious health issues. Talc is a mineral commonly used in a variety of items such as baby powder, makeup, and ceramics. Because it often naturally occurs near asbestos, talc can easily become contaminated with the fiber during mining. In recent years, companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Claire’s have come under fire for having asbestos-contaminated consumer products on the market. It’s at the discretion of consumers to vet their products before buying. To limit risk, experts advise avoiding talc-containing items altogether.
Awareness and Prevention
While there are some regulations around asbestos in the US, there is not a full ban, which leaves individuals susceptible to exposure. Being aware of the areas in which you can come into contact with asbestos is a step in the right direction to avoiding asbestos-related diseases.