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.