Why do I have mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer most often caused by exposure to asbestos – either from working directly with it or because someone in your household did.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a type of mineral that can withstand extreme heat and is resistant to extremely toxic chemicals. Because of its strength and low cost, manufacturers used it in their products.
Until about 30 years ago, asbestos was used in the manufacture of many such products in this country, including:
- Steam pipes, boilers, furnaces
- Wallboard or wall paints
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Wood-burning stoves and gas fireplaces
- Car brakes, clutches, and gaskets
- Railroad engines
- Roofing shingles
- Ironing board covers and pot holders
Why is asbestos so bad?
Asbestos fibers can break off and become airborne. When inhaled, some fibers may be expelled by coughing, but other fibers will remain lodged in a person’s lungs or stomach or around the tissue of the heart or testicles.
Over time, fibers lodged in the lungs may cause scar tissue and limit the oxygen that can be absorbed; this makes it hard to breathe. Other side effects are hoarseness, persistent chest pains, and coughing. These are some of the symptoms of an illness called asbestosis. Asbestosis is treatable, but not curable.
Asbestos fibers can also cause cancer in the lungs; one type of this cancer is called Pleural Malignant Mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers settle in the stomach or around the heart or testicles, people may develop Peritoneal or Pericardial Mesothelioma. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma could include unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, unusual lumps under the skin in the affected areas (such as around the chest, abdomen, or testicles), and painful swelling of the affected areas.
If you have been exposed to asbestos for a prolonged period of time and are experiencing symptoms like these, contact your doctor immediately.
Who is at risk for asbestos-related illnesses?
Prolonged exposure to asbestos without the proper safety precautions, such as masks and ventilation, puts a person at risk for asbestos inhalation. Medical experts suggest that the longer the exposure, the greater you are at risk of developing an asbestos-related illness.
Because the US did not regulate use of asbestos until the late 1970s (and it was not outlawed until 1989), and because asbestos was widely used in so many products, many workers were exposed to asbestos fibers with no protection or preventive barriers.
Common types of jobs with high risk to prolonged exposure include:
- Construction workers
- Chemical plant workers
- Shipyard or railroad workers
Sometimes people with minimal exposure to asbestos may develop mesothelioma. Why? Although medical experts do not believe tobacco use can cause mesothelioma, studies have shown that smoking can increase the risk that a person exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos-related illness.
Finally, sometimes people develop mesothelioma who never worked in these types of environments. Why? Because asbestos fibers can become airborne or can stick to a person’s clothing. That means that the family members of workers with prolonged exposure also may be at risk, because the worker transported the toxic fibers home; or it could mean that people who lived near plants that used asbestos or in buildings when its asbestos removal was not contained and regulated could be at risk because they inhaled the asbestos fibers that were dislodged into the air.
Unfortunately, manufacturers used asbestos in their products even despite knowledge that it causes cancer, mesothelioma, and other lung diseases.
Click here to read about who is responsible for your exposure if you have developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, call us today at NB&W. We are experienced at handling the legal issues involved in such claims and want to help protect you and your loved ones – we are here to listen and answer your questions. Help us help you.