Archive for March, 2011

Asbestos FAQ

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

We here at the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Information Exchange have a useful Mesothelioma and Asbestos FAQ.  It can be a useful resource for those looking to learn more about this formerly widely used mineral and the devastating disease that is linked to it.  We’ll go through some of the more salient points of the FAQ here.

First, we’ll discuss what asbestos actually is.  Asbestos is a mineral found naturally in a fiber-like form.  This fibrous form that is assumes lends some important (and practical) properties to it.  These are its extremely low density and its poor conduction ability.  These properties are due to the numerous air pockets that are found in between the feathery fibers of asbestos, and they make it an excellent fire-retardant and insulation material.  An additional industrial application of asbestos is using it to improve the tensile strength of concrete by mixing it in with the construction material.

Asbestos is found all over the world as a metamorphic mineral.  For years, Canada was the leading producer of asbestos; in recent years, Canada has seen competition rise from mines located in South Africa, China, Australia, and Russia.

Asbestos has a proven and dangerous link with a rare but deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma.  We’ve chronicled the link on our mesothelioma blog before, but we’ll run through it again here.  Since asbestos is so lightweight, when it becomes disturbed, it easily breaks into microscopically small particles that can be readily inhaled or ingested.  Alternately, these particles can settle on clothing or into water, where they can be subsequently inhaled or ingested by someone else not even directly involved with handling the mineral.

Once asbestos becomes inhaled, it can embed itself in the pleural lining of the lungs.  At this pint, there’s a latency period lasting anywhere from 10 to 50 years, during which no symptoms of mesothelioma manifest themselves.  However, once those symptoms do show up, the disease moves rapidly.  Victims suffering from mesothelioma often have life expectancies measured in months.

Asbestos Facts: Be Aware

Monday, March 21st, 2011

It may often help to be aware of asbestos facts, especially if there’s a chance that you may have been exposed to potentially mesothelioma-inducing asbestos fibers, or if you know someone who may have been put in that situation.  Being armed with asbestos facts can, in an ideal world, help prevent asbestos exposure.  However, in a situation where one has already been exposed to this dangerous mineral, awareness of asbestos facts might be able help prepare someone to plan for the future.

The ultimate asbestos fact is that it’s often linked to contracting mesothelioma.  Though mesothelioma is naturally occurring (that is, without the introduction of asbestos fibers into the equation) at a rate of about 1 in 1,000,000, that figure jumps to somewhere from 7 to 40 cases per 1,000,000 population.  That means that asbestos is a primary cause of mesothelioma.

Another sad asbestos fact is that much of this asbestos exposure occurs in hazardous, on-the-job situations.  Asbestos was a material in widespread use in the construction and shipbuilding industries, so many people were tasked with handling it as part of their jobs.  Before the extent of the dangers of asbestos was fully known, many precautions that might have been taken to avoid inhalation of the light, feathery mineral proved to be sadly insufficient.  The result is, many people ended up inhaling the mineral, and asbestos inhalation is a common cause of mesothelioma.

Another asbestos fact: We’ve alluded to the “feathery” nature of asbestos.  The fact is, the mineral is very, very lightweight, and is relatively easily inhaled.  Once that occurs, the fibers can get embedded in the pleural lining of the lungs.  It’s also possible for the fibers to embed themselves in the pleural lining of the stomach as well after ingestion.  What follows is a latency period lasting anywhere from 10 to 50 years, after which mesothelioma finally rears its ugly head.

Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Mesothelioma is well-known for the insidious way in which it manifests itself.  Many contemporary mesothelioma causes find their origin in some sort of  asbestos exposure.  Asbestos exposure usually happens in some sort of commercial context.  That’s because a host of industries, notably the fields of shipbuilding and construction, used to employ the mineral for a variety of purposes, such as effective insulation for ships and buildings.

Part of what makes asbestos such an effective insulation material is its characteristic, nearly feathery structure, which traps significant amounts air and makes heat transfer from one side of asbestos to another more difficult.  Unfortunately, this fibrous, low-density structure also means certain kinds of asbestos become airborne very easily when disturbed.  Once airborne, it’s very easy for asbestos fibers to get inhaled, where they embed themselves in the pleural lining of the lungs.  After a latency period, lasting anywhere from 10 to 50 years, mesothelioma manifests itself.

Though inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers charged with handling it is a common way people get exposed, it’s by no means the only way.  Asbestos fibers can also be ingested.  They can also settle on the clothes of workers and be transported, which is where sad cases of second-hand asbestos exposure can occur.

Such second-hand asbestos exposure can be the result of a loved one of the worker handling that worker’s clothes by, say, washing them, but it can really happen in any number of situations.  Basically, all that needs to happen is for the asbestos fibers on that person’s clothing to be disturbed, become airborne, and become inhaled, a tragic sequence of events.

Of course, another way people not directly involved in handling asbestos can contract asbestos-derived mesothelioma is by simply living in a building that used certain kinds of asbestos in its construction.  The bottom line is, no matter how someone inhales asbestos, the results can be devastating.

Mesothelioma-Linked Materials

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Mesothelioma-linked materials are often products that contain asbestos.  Asbestos was, prior 1978, a frequently used material in the industries of shipbuilding and construction.  Asbestos contained a number of properties that made it highly valued in a variety of applications in these two industries, some of which include excellent fire resistance and insulation properties.  Mining this valued mineral turned into a lucrative business for a number of employers the world over.  Unfortunately, asbestos also happens to be a primary cause of mesothelioma, which means exposure to this mineral has shortened lives all over the world.

Mesothelioma-linked materials include:

  • Roofing and siding items, some of which include roofing tiles, shingles for roofing and siding, and clapboard.  All of these materials were, on occasion, made with an asbestos known as chrysotile or “white asbestos.”
  • Flooring, ceilings, and walls, onto which asbestos were frequently sprayed or troweled.  This coating might have been used to exploit the fire retardant capabilities of asbestos; however, its use proved to have devastating consequences, as this form of asbestos application in construction is considered to be particularly fraught with danger.  In flooring tiles, asbestos was often used in tandem with vinyl or asphalt.
  • Pipes and boilers, onto which asbestos was often applied to improve insulation around these heat sources.  This application often led to improved heating efficiency.  Unfortunately, it also ran the real risk of exposing the people working with the pipes and boilers, along with the people using these items, to dangerous asbestos fibers.

Other mesothelioma-linked materials include protective clothing, blankets, and cloth (for the fire-resistant properties of asbestos), insulation for welded products, and an asbestos-cement mixture, which made the resultant concrete less dense and stronger.  This particular application made the concrete easier to transport, which cut down on construction costs.  Unfortunately, it may have also exposed people to mesothelioma-causing asbestos.