In a Nutshell: Asbestos is a widely used industrial material, but its properties also make it extremely hazardous. Exposure to its microscopic fibrous crystals is responsible for an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma, among many other maladies. Mesothelioma.com provides a wealth of information and educational resources to help those who may be suffering effects from the disease brought on by asbestos. The site offers a list of safety precautions for those at risk of ongoing exposure to the fibers, medical information for mesothelioma victims, and legal guidance for those seeking remuneration for negligence that led to exposure and illness.
Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that are well known for being non-conductive, durable, and highly resistant to heat. Builders have used asbestos throughout history because of those properties, but in the 1870s, the industrial use of asbestos began to explode.
“Back then, asbestos was branded as a miracle mineral,” said Colin Ruggiero, Health Writer for Mesothelioma.com, a site that offers resources for those suffering from mesothelioma, a disease caused by breathing in the fibers in asbestos over long periods of time. “It’s very strong, extremely fire resistant, and sound absorbent. That’s why it was used so frequently.”
But in 1899, Dr. H. Montague Murray first noted the adverse health effects of asbestos exposure. Shortly afterward, in the early 1900s, medical researchers began to see a rising number of fatalities and lung problems in asbestos mining towns. Despite those demonstrated health hazards, industrial use of asbestos continued in the U.S. until the 1970s, when the EPA stepped in to restrict its use and begin phasing it out of industrial production.
But because of its long history of usage, asbestos is still prevalent in the United States, especially in older buildings. For those working in building renovation or demolition, the health hazards posed by asbestos remain a dangerous reality — one of which is mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a type of aggressive cancer that occurs in the lungs, abdomen, and heart as a result of exposure to the fibers in asbestos. According to Mesothelioma.com, 3,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the United States.
For individuals who have been exposed to asbestos and believe they may have contracted the disease, Mesothelioma.com provides resources that can help them find the medical care and legal representation they need to preserve their physical and financial health.
Industrial Use of Asbestos Increases Mesothelioma Risk
From 1999 to 2015, more than 45,000 people died from mesothelioma, and studies suggest that 20 million more are at risk of developing the disease through natural or occupational exposure.
“In recent years, we see a lot more diagnoses among construction workers, HVAC workers, and even firefighters — people who are working jobs where they’re dealing with asbestos-containing materials,” Ruggiero said. “And a lot of people are coming into contact with asbestos through renovating homes or demolishing homes.”
Asbestos fibers are composed of microscopic fibrils and can be found in a variety of materials, including vinyl flooring and roofing tiles. Products that contain these minerals are not, in themselves, dangerous; you won’t contract mesothelioma just from stepping on an asbestos-fortified floor. But abrasion and other types of physical damage can fragment the larger asbestos fibers and release the smaller fibrils into the air.
When inhaled, these fibrils can lead to mesothelioma and other serious diseases. Taking proper safety precautions can mitigate this risk, but only if workers are aware that they are being exposed.
“People who haven’t been trained in that area or don’t really know the dangers of asbestos are blindly renovating homes and demolishing homes and aren’t aware of the fact that asbestos fibers can become airborne,” Ruggiero said. “Many people who are unaware are often left in the dark by their employers. They’re negligent to it because they don’t want to deal with it.”
Health Screenings Improve Chances of Early Diagnosis and Successful Treatment
Anyone concerned about mesothelioma or seeking more information on the topic can find a wealth of knowledge at Mesothelioma.com.
“The purpose of our website is really to connect patients with doctors and hospitals, provide them with any information they need on asbestos and mesothelioma cancer,” Ruggiero said.
The site includes an overview of the different types of mesothelioma, a list of ways individuals may have been exposed to asbestos and at-risk occupations, and a directory of mesothelioma specialists and experts.
“If you are a blue-collar worker, and you worked in a trade where there is some potential asbestos exposure, it’s important to get a regular checkup. I can’t stress that enough,” Ruggiero said. “The disease doesn’t present itself until later down the road, and the symptoms are typically minor. You get coughing and chest pain and nothing too detrimental to your health until it reaches a later stage.”
To detect the disease early, vigilance is necessary. Ruggiero recommends regular checkups that include CT scans and X-rays, and at-risk individuals should carefully monitor the health and function of their lungs, which is where most cases are diagnosed.
“If you can catch it early, you have a much better prognosis than someone who’s diagnosed at stage 4,” Ruggiero said.
Mesothelioma treatment includes chemotherapy and radiation, which are common approaches to combating cancer. In extreme cases, though, the removal of an affected lung may be required.
“The treatments are aggressive and invasive because there’s not enough research going on in this type of cancer space. They’re still working on treatment options,” Ruggiero said. “But your prognosis is better if it is caught in the early stages.”
Legal Resources Help Patients Understand Their Rights and Seek Compensation
Mesothelioma.com has been actively educating the public and addressing health and safety concerns since 1996. But the site also offers legal information and guidance for victims seeking compensation.
“We partner with the law firm of James F. Early,” Ruggiero said. “They deal solely in asbestos and mesothelioma litigation.”
The law firm’s first step in pursuing legal action in a mesothelioma case is to work with family and medical care providers to make a timeline of work history and pinpoint asbestos exposure.
Compensation is more likely if you can work backward from diagnosis to the point of exposure. And many companies that know they’ve exposed employees to asbestos have set up funds to compensate them and their families if they have contracted mesothelioma and other related diseases.
Those who catch the disease at an early stage and pursue legal action are likely to receive compensation for medical bills and treatment. Patients who receive late-stage diagnoses, when severe symptoms are present and the disease is much more advanced, typically have a life expectancy of 12 to 24 months.
That means their families will be more likely to receive compensation for income lost due to debilitation and fatality.
“Many families do want to be compensated for their loved one developing mesothelioma,” Ruggiero said. “If they want to pursue legal action, that’s where we connect them with the law firm, and they go from there.”
When pursuing legal action related to mesothelioma, Ruggiero urges victims and their families to research law firms thoroughly and verify their qualifications to pursue this sort of case. As with doctors, they would be better off partnering with lawyers who have experience in mesothelioma litigation.
Education and Safety Precautions Reduce the Risk of Exposure and Illness
Although the EPA pushed for a ban in the late 1970s and early 1980s, asbestos remains legal and widely used in a variety of products, including fire-proof clothing, disk brakes, and insulation.
In fact, the U.S. is one of only a few developed nations — including Russia, Mexico, and China — where industrial use of asbestos is not banned. As a result, asbestos continues to present a hazard to people who work around the material, and it’s vital to take steps to catch any health concerns early.
“A lot of the diagnoses that are continuing to occur are ones of past exposure,” Ruggiero said. “Mesothelioma takes 10 to 50 years to develop. The people who are being exposed through renovation and construction now, we’re not going to see them diagnosed until maybe 2030 or 2040.”
It’s equally as important for concerned individuals to take the necessary safety precautions when working with asbestos or when in situations where they may be exposed to airborne fibrils. Mesothelioma.com makes that information easily accessible, and the site’s blog provides additional news and information on the disease and related issues.
“It’s most important to become educated on the subject,” Ruggiero said. “Take the training offered by the EPA. Wear the correct safety equipment for every job. Wear a respirator when you’re demolishing things. Basic safety standards that are often overlooked can be the difference between living a healthy life and being diagnosed with a terrible disease like mesothelioma.”