Archive for June, 2011

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Risk in School

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

In general, children are considered to be at a higher risk for developing mesothelioma. Like adults who have been exposed to asbestos, children who are exposed are unlikely to show any immediate symptoms. However, the younger a child is when they are exposed to high levels of asbestos, the more likely it becomes that they may express symptoms at some point in the future. Depending on the type of asbestos and level of exposure, it can take decades for symptoms to arise. People who were significantly exposed during later adulthood may not live long enough to see any symptoms.

According to the EPA, schools built before the 1980’s may have a stronger possibility of containing asbestos. Asbestos has also been found in some playgrounds where fill materials containing asbestos were donated by a construction company or other construction-related organization. Undisturbed asbestos in good condition is considered less dangerous. The more knowledge a school has about the materials in its facility, the better their chances are of preventing hazardous materials exposure to children and staff.

Consistent with the Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act (AHERA), EPA regulations require schools to designate an asbestos management coordinator. The coordinator manages all activities relating to asbestos. The success of schools’ asbestos management has largely been the result of the knowledge and practices of the coordinator. Every school is also required to have an asbestos management plan, which should include a list of any uses of asbestos in school structures. Concerned parents can contact an administrator and request a copy of the plan. In the interest of making sure that school environments are safe for children, the EPA offers an AHERA Designated Person Self-Study Guide, which has been a primary resource for schools since its release in 1996.

But unfortunately, the potential risk doesn’t stop in school buildings. Recent tests have shown the presence of asbestos in some children’s toys. Between 2007 and 2009, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, or ADAO, conducted a series of tests on a number of household products sold in the U.S. Three laboratories tested more than 250 products, including children’s toys. Certain modeling clays and other imported materials were shown to contain unacceptable levels of asbestos. One of the most notable cases was a popular fingerprint examination kit. The ADAO tests found significant levels of asbestos in a fingerprint dusting powder that was part of the kit.

Mesothelioma prevention begins with being informed. This mesothelioma blog is dedicated to providing useful information to people about the risks of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma prevention. Whether you are a protective parent, school staff member or concerned citizen, we encourage you to explore this blog, our mesothelioma articles and our mesothelioma FAQ. If you need more assistance, please contact us.


Asbestos in Materials Today

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

It may be surprising to hear that asbestos is still used in some products today. Most types of asbestos have been banned since the 1970’s due to the potential connection to mesothelioma. However, one type of asbestos fiber, chrysotile, has been approved for use in some materials. In insulation and appliances, the fibers resist both heat and cold very effectively. Vinyl floor tiles are strengthened by chrysotile against damage such as scuffing and moisture.

While inhaling asbestos poses serious risks to one’s health, chrysotile fibers are generally considered the least dangerous type of asbestos. Research has shown that the fibers are harmless unless disturbed and released in significant quantities into the air. In addition, when these materials are manufactured, the fibers are sealed into the matrix of the material itself, which prevents chrysotile fibers from being released. Provided that the materials remain undisturbed and are not crumbling, there is no significant risk of exposure.

The EPA has very helpful information about asbestos removal do’s and don’ts. People considering asbestos disposal should consult a professional. Do not sand or tear such materials, as this can release the asbestos fibers. If it is suspected, after the fact, that asbestos containing materials have been disturbed, wet the material to prevent further dispersion of fibers. The EPA also advises not to use a household vacuum or broom to remove dust, as these will likely launch the fibers into the air. Trained professionals will use a special vacuum with a HEPA filter designed specially for this type of situation. If surfaces must be cleaned, use wet mops and sponges. A fine mist of water sprayed into the air may help settle dust as well.

Mesothelioma prevention starts with avoiding exposure. Whether remodeling a home built in the 1950’s — prior to asbestos bans — or handling more recent asbestos-containing materials, asbestos disposal professionals can be of great help. An asbestos abatement professional can assess the risk and recommend a method for handling materials and asbestos abatement. They will also have access to the proper equipment and materials necessary to protect people who might otherwise be exposed. Before working with contractors, making inquiries regarding experience levels and training with asbestos can help determine which contractor will take the necessary precautions.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, our Mesothelioma FAQ may be of assistance to you.


Asbestos Exposure: Tornado Clean-Up

Friday, June 17th, 2011

In the wake of this season’s tornados, countless families and businesses are faced with the realities of dealing with demolition and debris removal. Even in normal conditions, asbestos abatement entails a controlled and thorough process. While mesothelioma prevention and asbestos remediation can be expensive, there are resources available for virtually every project. Individuals can work with state-lisenced contractors to properly repair or remove asbestos before the materials are disturbed by demolition or construction. Typically, property owners are very willing to protect themselves and others from possible exposure by taking these important steps in asbestos disposal and the disposal of other hazardous materials. But this may not be the case when the difficult process of disaster clean-up begins.

According to Alabama’, an NBC affliate, in light of disaster, homeowners may be tempted to shrug their shoulders at exposure to asbestos and other harmful materials, despite the possible link to diseases such as mesothelioma. This attitude is understandable, considering the overwhelming task at hand. But regardless of the natural human urge to move forward with disaster recovery, city institutions, contractors and property owners have a responsibility to protect citizens from further harm by additional exposure.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, in these cases, the primary role of FEMA and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is to assist local authorities in determining how best to implement their plans for removal and disposal. They do strongly encourage communities who are considering burying, stockpiling or burning potentially hazardous materials to contact the DEP before moving forward. This is a critical step in mesothelioma prevention and the prevention of other diseases linked to exposure of building materials.

The post-disaster clean-up process will likely be challenging for homeowners, regardless whether they hire contractors or choose to do some of the work on their own. But FEMA offers its support and strongly advises individuals not to clean up potentially contaminated materials without assistance. For assistance: FEMA Disaster Field Office Environmental Liaison Officer, or the Hazardous Materials and Oil Spills National Response Center, 1-800-424-8802.

Avoiding Asbestos Fibers

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Whether you are about to start a construction project or have just completed one, you may have concerns about exposure to asbestos and the reported risk of mesothelioma. Being informed about the materials you will encounter or have encountered is one important step in asbestos remediation and mesothelioma prevention. For example, how you deal with demolition depends largely on the uses of asbestos in the original construction.

When addressing asbestos disposal, handling or abatement in your next project, it is important to understand the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos is a general term generally used to describe asbestos that is broken or crumbled easily by hand. If asbestos is friable, there may be a higher likelihood that asbestos fibers will be released into the air during demolition or asbestos disposal.

Non-friable asbestos fibers are considered hard to break by hand, and therefore may have a lower probability of being released into the air. When left alone, non-friable asbestos-containing materials may not pose any serious risk to human health. It is when non-friable asbestos-containing materials are disturbed that they may become a problem.

The EPA has established guidelines for dealing with both friable and non-friable materials. But when it comes to non-friable materials, it becomes important to consider the conditions that influence the level of risk from these materials.

There are many factors that can influence whether an asbestos-containing material is or will become friable. These include: methods of ventilation, demolition and asbestos disposal; the type of material; and when and how the material was made.

The EPA also has established two categories to assist people in determining how to approach these materials. Category 1 non-friable materials are not likely to become friable because of a binding material that locks the fibers together. Category 2 Non-Friable materials have a greater potential to become friable due to frequent use or extreme conditions.

While there are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers for how to address asbestos-containing materials, there are many resources to assist people in mesothelioma prevention. For more information about how to address concerns you may have about mesothelioma, visit our Mesothelioma FAQ.


Pneumonectomy and Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer affecting the membrane that covers and protects various internal organs of the body (mesothelium). The mesothelium comprises two layers of particular cells known as mesothelial cells. One layer directly surrounds an organ forming a protective sac, while the other lines body cavities, providing oil like lubrication within the body. The most common type of mesothelioma cancer affects the membrane, or sac, lining the lungs (pleura). Other, less common areas include the membrane of the stomach (peritoneum) and the membrane lining the heart (pericardium).

A pneumonectomy is a surgical removal of an entire lung and is used as a cancer treatment. Pneumonectomy may fall into one of two categories: traditional pneumonectomy, resulting in the removal of the diseased lung and extrapleural pneumonectomy, involving removal of the diseased lung as well as areas of the diaphragm and other tissues.

Extrapleural pneumonectomy is typically determined as a surgery of last resort with a goal of eradicating a majority of the cancer cells. Surgeons usually only perform this type of surgery on patients who are in the early stages of mesothelioma cancer, before the cancer has a chance to metastasize, spreading to lymph nodes or invading surrounding tissues and organs. Extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery candidates typically need to be in relatively good health — with good lung and heart function — because removal of an entire lung will increase strain on the heart and remaining lung. They also usually need to be strong and healthy enough to withstand the demands of major surgery and the healing it will require.

In some cases, diagnosis of mesothelioma cancer does not occur until a patient reaches a critical Stage 3 or 4, reducing the chances for this type of treatment. For those who are eligible, extrapleural pneumonectomy may slow or halt the progression of the disease, help ease breathing and improve quality of life. Extrapleural pneumonectomy patients treated with a combination of extrapleural pneumonectomy, radiation and chemotherapy may experience increased life spans of months or, in some cases, years.