The Friable Asbestos Tragedy

Today, asbestos is inextricably linked with mesothelioma.  However, for centuries (or even millennia), this mineral was widely used and considered profoundly valuable.  The change has to do with mesothelioma’s ravages.

Mesothelioma is an insidious and devastating cancer that afflicts the delicate lining around the stomach and the lungs.  (This lining is known as the mesothelium, which is how this disease gets its name.)  Mesothelioma can be caused by asbestos exposure, and that’s how the majority of mesothelioma cases in America are caused.  (The natural occurrence for mesothelioma is about 1 in 1,000,000, whereas the current rate in the United States is somewhere between 7 and 40 per 1,000,000 citizens.)

Asbestos exposure can happen for many reasons.  One primary cause is working with asbestos.  Although this mineral is rarely used anymore, it used to be employed with great regularity in many industries, specifically the construction and shipbuilding ones.  Asbestos was used so widely because it possessed many properties that were prized in construction and shipbuilding.  For example, when mixed with concrete, it made the concrete simultaneously less dense and lighter.  This meant that builders could ship smaller amounts and needed smaller volumes to achieve the same results, which cut down on both labor and transportation costs.  Since asbestos is so light and feathery, it is an excellent insulator and fire retardant, so it was used for those purposes as well.  In the shipbuilding industry, its extremely low density and efficiency as an insulator led to its widespread use in an area where every extra pound of weight counts.

Unfortunately, despite its many positive uses, asbestos, when inhaled in the lungs, can cause mesothelioma.  After being inhaled, it lays dormant for anywhere from 10 to 50 years.  Once it actively begins causing mesothelioma, victims of this mineral’s insidiousness begin to worsen rapidly.  The life expectancy of someone afflicted with mesothelioma is often measured in mere months.

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