Archive for July, 2011

Mesothelioma: Asbestos Contamination

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The media has given a great deal of attention to various consumer products known to contain asbestos and can cause Mesothelioma. However, few people are aware of the potential dangers of asbestos contamination in other products, such as vermiculite and talc.

Vermiculite is a mineral that expands when heated to a high temperature and is lightweight and resistant to odor and fire, making it desirable for use in a number of products such as insulation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the large majority (more than 70 percent) of the vermiculite used in products between 1919 and 1990 came from a mine near Libby, Montana. Because there was also a deposit of asbestos in the mine, the vermiculite from the Libby mine became contaminated.

Vermiculite insulation is a loose, pebble-like material that was poured into the wall or attic. It is usually grayish brown or silver-gold, and vermiculite pieces vary in size. The EPA advises that, because of the likelihood of contamination, homeowners whose homes contain vermiculite should assume it contains asbestos and refrain from disturbing the insulation to test it. Read our Vermiculite and Mesothelioma articles to have a better understanding of how Mesothelioma can be associated with Vermiculite.

This may include taking extra precautions when moving around the attic or hiring a contractor to do so. For example, if a contractor must do work in the attic, you may want to consider the possibility that insulation could be transferred to other areas of the house through ducts or by traveling on clothes. For more information, you can read the EPA fact sheet on protecting your family from contaminated vermiculite insulation (or en Español – PDF).

Talc is a mineral that is used in many cosmetic and other consumer products. It is present in talcum powder, facial powders, chalk and some crayons. When broken down to a smooth power, talc becomes absorbent and reduces friction. Unfortunately, like vermiculite, talc can also be contaminated when mined from areas that also contain asbestos. Its wide use in skin products made talc a particular concern in the past because it could be inhaled easily. According to the American Cancer Society, all household talcum products are supposed to now be free of asbestos. This requirement has been in effect since the 1970’s.

If you have other questions concerning exposure to products that may contain or asbestos-related diseases, visit our Mesothelioma and Asbestos FAQ or read our Mesothelioma articles.

Other Asbestos-Related Diseases

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleura (or lining of the lung) which can be caused by exposure to asbestos, is often times known as an asbestos-related disease. But what about the other asbestos-related diseases? Although Mesothelioma is, generally speaking, the more severe of these diseases, other asbestos-related diseases can pose serious risks to health and can also indicate a risk for asbestos-related cancer. So, what are these other diseases and what are their symptoms?

According to the Mayo Clinic, asbestosis is a progressive disease of the lungs that causes rales (crackling) and wheezing, due to the development of fibrosis or excessive connective tissue in the lungs. A persistent dry cough and even clubbing of the fingers can also accompany asbestosis. Like Mesothelioma, asbestosis may spread to other vital organs. Although asbestosis is irreversible, the progression of asbestosis and the resulting damage can be mitigated by proper treatment. Treatment focusing on relieving symptoms may include the use of oxygen or medications similar to those used by asthma patients. Deaths caused strictly from asbestosis are uncommon. However, asbestosis is an indicator for the risk of more serious cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestos warts are another type of asbestos-related disease. These warts develop when callus-like growths form over asbestos fibers that are stuck under the skin. The warts typically itch. They are benign and do respond well to treatment, but like asbestosis, can indicate a source of larger concern.

Pleural plaques are small calcified or fibrous areas that form on the pleura and can be another asbestos-related illness. These plaques are not dangerous, unless they lead to pleural thickening. Pleural thickening can cause lung damage, but alone, is generally not considered deadly.

If you are showing symptoms that concern you, it is important that you schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you have other questions concerning exposure to asbestos or asbestos-related diseases, visit our Mesothelioma FAQ or read some of our Mesothelioma articles.


The Largest Asbestos Settlement Ever

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

In a recent landmark decision, a Mississippi jury awarded the highest-ever settlement in the history of asbestos related injury cases and mesothelioma settlements. Thomas Brown, Jr., a 48-year-old oil field worker, was awarded $322 million for suffering, expenses and punitive damages. The defendants in the case, Chevron Phillips Chemical and Union Carbide Corporation, allegedly continued putting workers at risk even after the dangers of asbestos exposure were well known.

Brown, working in the oil fields for several years in the 1970’s and 80’s, claims he inhaled asbestos dust on a regular basis when mixing drilling mud that was sold by Chevron Phillips Chemical and manufactured by Union Carbide. He has since developed a serious condition known as asbestosis, a disease that causes lung scarring and may become worse with time. Brown requires oxygen 24 hours a day, limiting his mobility and ability to work. Apparently at issue was Brown’s inability to read the warning labels and signs posted by the company. The companies’ spokespeople vehemently denied the claims and stated that there were plans for an appeal.

Regardless of the eventual outcome of this particular case, the large settlement may send a strong message to companies who are not keenly focused on the health and safety of workers. Prior to this case, the largest settlement, in an amount over $200 million, resulted from a class-action suit that took place in Illinois. The next highest settlement occurred in March of this year, when $90 million was awarded to Charles Gillenwater. Since the first asbestos-related injury case in 1929, hundreds of thousands of people have filed lawsuits against thousands of defendants. But this is the largest known settlement to date.  For more information about victim’s rights, visit our page on mesothelioma victim’s rights.

According to the EPA, exposure to asbestos can be a cause of mesothelioma or lead to other cancers or asbestosis, as in Brown’s case. Exposure to asbestos can be particularly dangerous because of the long latency period of the diseases associated with asbestos exposure. A worker may expose themselves repeatedly for years before any symptoms arise. Once symptoms do arise, for many people the diagnosis is unfortunately terminal. Our mesothelioma articles provide useful information to anyone interested in finding out more about mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases.


Diagnosing Mesothelioma Symptoms

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

How do you know you have developed mesothelioma? The likelihood is there’s a good chance you won’t; only a doctor can diagnose mesothelioma. Even so, symptoms of mesothelioma may vary depending on severity of the illness and location of the disease and are often confused with signs of other illnesses. Many people find that understanding how mesothelioma works can be helpful.

There are often considered to be three types of mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma and benign mesothelioma. Each type has its own characteristics. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this potentially deadly disease. Up to 75 percent of mesothelioma cases are instances of pleural mesothelioma. This type affects the pleura or lining of the lungs. Symptoms can be confused with the flu, lung cancer and even broken ribs.

Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the peritoneum, the abdominal lining that helps contain your digestive organs. Symptoms can include increased abdominal size, abdominal pain, digestive problems, weight loss, fever or fatigue. Because these symptoms are often associated with other illnesses, symptoms can be misleading here as well.

Benign mesothelioma is non-cancerous. The symptoms of benign mesothelioma, although generally considered less dangerous, can also be life threatening, especially if left untreated. The presence of benign mesothelioma may be an indicator for other serious problems. It also signifies likely exposure to asbestos, which could lead to the presence of mesothelioma in other areas of your body. You can find out more about asbestos and mesothelioma in our mesothelioma articles and our mesothelioma blog.

The cellular structure of malignant mesothelioma also has three possible classifications: epitheliod, sarcomatoid and mixed/biphasic. Epitheliod is the most common of the three and occurs in the outer layer of the organs and tissues in the body. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma, less common and more serious, occurs at a deeper tissue level and can affect bone, muscle, cartilage and fat.

If you have been exposed to asbestos or think you may have mesothelioma, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she may take any of several courses of action if mesothelioma is suspected. These could include a physical exam, fluid collection or scans. Methods of diagnosis vary from doctor to doctor. You may decide to get a second opinion or ask your doctor about other tests available. Being inquisitive about the method and accuracy of diagnosis can be life saving and help bring you peace of mind.

If you would like more information about mesothelioma diagnosis and mesothelioma treatments, call 1-888-370-0121.