Archive for December, 2010

Important Asbestos Facts

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Knowing asbestos facts could be an important way to be prepared about their dangers.  The foremost fact we’re concerned with is its causal relation to mesothelioma.  The fact is, asbestos has a strong link to victims who have developed mesothelioma.  A (sadly all-to-common) tale is workers in the industries of construction and shipbuilding come in contact with asbestos and subsequently develop mesothelioma.  The question is, however, how are these linked?  How and why does asbestos cause mesothelioma?  We’ve compiled a few facts to help set the record straight.

Asbestos is a mineral that, when found in mines, is fibrous, almost feathery, and very lightweight.  Both of these factors—its extremely low density and its feathery attributes—make it a highly valued building material for a couple of reasons.  For one, due to its physical properties, it traps a significant amount of air in between its fibers.  This makes it useful as an insulation material.  It was not uncommon for asbestos to be used on ships to insulate boilers and pipes.  It was also used in construction, where it was often combined with concrete.  This created a stronger, lighter concrete that was easier to ship and work with.

However, this fibrous consistency is also a big reason why asbestos can be so dangerous.  When it’s disturbed (by workers handling the material, for example), particles of the mineral can become airborne, which makes them very easy to ingest or inhale.  From there, the fibers can embed themselves in the lining of your lungs, which, after a period of latency, can trigger the onset of mesothelioma.

There are, generally speaking, two forms of naturally occurring asbestos.  They are amphibole and sepentine asbestos.  It’s possible to further categorize amphibole asbestos into additional types, including amosite and crocidolite.

Asbestos is a mineral found the world over.  Particularly large asbestos concerns are located in South Africa, Australia, Canada, China, and Russia.  Historically, Canada has been the world leader of asbestos mining.

Mesothelioma Prognosis

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Mesothelioma treatment is an area of the medical field that is showing remarkable progress.  New methods of combating this devastating disease are being tested regularly.  Novel combinations of existing treatments are also being researched in an attempt to see what methods work best.  These are good signs, obviously, but they underscore the ultimate, sad truth about mesothelioma.  Despite all of science’s latest improvements, there is, unfortunately, no cure for this cancer.

Traditionally, there are three forms of standard treatment for most  cancers.  They are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.  None of these treatments alone has demonstrated overwhelming effectiveness in combating mesothelioma.  One promising mesothelioma treatment involves surgical removal of a lung or portion of a long to go with a period of aggressive chemotherapy.  This treatment is called a pneumonectomy.  Though a pneumonectomy can increase a mesothelioma victim’s life expectancy, it does not usually cure the victim of the disease.

Fortunately, mesothelioma is not a particularly common cancer.  The typical rate of contraction in the United States hovers somewhere between seven and 40 per 1,000,000 citizens, which is pretty low.  That’s good news, yet it’s a bit of a two-edged sword.  That’s because, research dollars being finite, a rarer cancer is less likely to draw the kind of research budget that a more common one will bring in.  That translates to a potentially slower rate of progress than commonly found with other cancers.

Another issue with rarity is that there are fewer cases to compare.  That means less comparative research can be conducted.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with this disease and is undergoing mesothelioma treatment, it might be worth considering consulting a mesothelioma law firm to try to secure some sort of mesothelioma settlement.  When considering mesothelioma law firms, it might be a good idea to opt for one that has significant amounts of experience in the field, as they might be more well-equipped to secure your settlement.

Mesothelioma in Libby, Montana

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

We’ve written before about the devastation that asbestos-linked mesothelioma has wreaked in Libby, Montana.  (Specifically, there are at least three blog posts about the mesothelioma crisis; the first deals with Libby, Montana’s public health emergency; the second is a Libby, Montana mesothelioma update; the final one is a bit of a primer on the history of asbestos exposure in Libby, Montana.)

While reading some mesothelioma-related news, as we often do, we came across a useful article that discusses how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered the cause of elevated levels of mesothelioma affliction among the population of Libby.

The article, on Mesothelioma.com, details the EPA’s investigation of Libby and its vermiculite mines.  It all began when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a series of articles collectively entitled “A Town Left to Die.”  These articles, among other things, noted a correlation between the unusually high number of mesothelioma-related deaths in the town (somewhere between 40 and 80 times the national average) and a vermiculite mine run by W.R. Grace and Company.  These articles created a furor of sorts, and EPA investigators arrived to determine the accuracy of the claims put forth.

The results of the EPA investigators’ findings was stunning.  According to the article, roughly one out of every three households in Libby had experienced the loss of a family member that could have been linked to asbestos.  Diseases included asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Despite the fact that the mine closed about nine years prior, in 1990, the investigators nevertheless found Libby awash in materials containing asbestos.  What’s more, unlike other forms of asbestos fibers, the ones found in Libby were unusually sharp, which made them more readily penetrate the delicate lining of the lungs.  The article states that, while mesothelioma typically takes anywhere from 20 to 40 years to manifest itself (we here opt for the figure 10 to 50), mesothelioma linked with asbestos from Libby was taking half the time they designated to develop.

National Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The United States House of Representatives has designated September 26th as National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  The designation, which occurred due to the passage of H. Res. 771 (House Resolution), might make September 26th a day for elements of the federal government to mark the day with educational gestures.

The bill, which can be seen as a victory for those attempting to fight mesothelioma by raising awareness about its causes and effects, was introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota.  Her stated reason for doing so is as follows: “In 2000, my friend and predecessor Congressman Bruce Vento was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Despite decades of warnings about the dangers of asbestos, too many Americans are still unaware of the devastating nature of this disease.”

More information about this day can be found on this useful mesothelioma press release found on the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation site.

We’ve spent much time in this space attempting to detail how and why mesothelioma may be caused.  A one of the more common mesothelioma causes in the United States is asbestos exposure.  Asbestos exposure can occur for many reasons, but one typical cause is when one handles or comes into contact with this mineral in the workplace.  Another way many can be exposed is by living in a building constructed with materials containing asbestos.

For years, asbestos was a popular construction material for several reasons.  For one, it had excellent flame retardant and insulation properties, which made it an excellent product in buildings.  When mixed with concrete, it also simultaneously strengthened and lightened it, which reduced both labor and transportation costs.

Unfortunately, however, many workers who handled asbestos inhaled feathery fibers of the mineral.  These fibers can embed themselves in the lining of the lung, which, after a period of latency lasting anywhere from 10 to 50 years, can trigger the onset of mesothelioma symptoms.