Posts Tagged ‘causes of mesothelioma’

Asbestos in the Drinking Water?

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

When reading material about the uses of asbestos and mesothelioma-linked materials, you will mostly encounter facts about asbestos in the environment that can become airborne and lead to mesothelioma. However, largely because of the decay of cement water mains and the erosion of natural deposits, asbestos can also contaminate drinking water. Water suppliers are required by law to conduct routine monitoring to make sure that water levels are below the maximum contaminant level (MCL). According to the EPA, the MCL for asbestos in drinking water is 7 MFL. While MFL is not defined in the Basic Information about Asbestos in Drinking Water on the EPA website, the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, as printed in the EPA publication, “Water On Tap: What You Need to Know,” define MFL as millions of fibers per liter. This document, updated in 2003, identifies the risk of developing benign intestinal polyps.

In Asbestos in Drinking-water, the Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality the World Health Organization reports that most of the US population consumes drinking water with a concentration lower than 1 MFL. Research studying the effects of ingesting asbestos have yet to show a significant risk of cancer from ingesting asbestos. At the same time, the scientific community is concerned about possible risks and continues to research the area.

The EPA recommends finding out about your local source for drinking water. Numbers to call will appear on your water bill or telephone book’s government listings. If you contact your water utility company, they can provide you with a copy of the required annual consumer confidence report or water quality report that will give you information about the quality of water in your area. If your water supply is private, the EPA recommends that you contact the nearest community water system. For more information about asbestos and mesothelioma, please complete our online form.

Overview of Asbestos and Its Uses

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is formed in the earth and removed by mining. It has been used for over 2000 years in a variety of products, most taking advantage of asbestos’ fire-resistant properties. The material has been used in many countries for a variety of purposes. In the United States until the 1970’s, asbestos was commonly used in building materials such as floor tile, insulation, and roofing materials. Use in the US met a seemingly permanent decline in the 1970’s because of research that showed the health risks associated with uses of asbestos. Today, the leading producers of asbestos are Russia and China. The main consumers of asbestos products are China, India, Russia and Thailand.

There are six known types of asbestos which fall into two categories. The amphibole group includes five of the six types: amosite (brown), crocidolite (blue), anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. The second group (the sepentine group), is a category of one, including only crysotile, or white asbestos. The properties and risks associated with each type depends on the nature of the fiber and how friable the material is. Friability refers to how easily the material can be launched into the air and potentially enter the lungs.

Although asbestos use has diminished greatly since the 1970’s, people the material is found in many structures. That’s because many of the buildings and structures that were made using asbestos materials still stand today. In homes built before the 1970’s, asbestos was used as insulation to help resist fire damage. Asbestos was often added to cement to increase it’s strength, and as a component of insulation boards, fireplace lining, roofing tiles and floor tiles. Applications that were particularly dangerous involved using more naturally friable forms of asbestos in applications that were more easily disturbed, such as in lagging and acoustic wall and ceiling “popcorn.” Because these materials still exist in many homes today, it is important for homeowners to be informed, especially if they plan to remodel or repair their home. In many cases, leaving the material undisturbed is the best course of action unless the remodel or repair is handled by an asbestos abatement expert.

Asbestos was used starting in the 1940’s in shipyards as insulation around pipes. Because of it’s light weight, low cost and resistance to heat and corrosion, the material was considered ideal until research linked the material to incidence of mesothelioma. Sadly, some companies continued to expose workers to these materials, even after the risks were well-known. Because of mesothelioma’s long latency period, many of these workers did not see health problems until recently. As a result, some people who are being diagnosed with mesothelioma are entitled to legal compensation. For more information on these or other mesothelioma-related topics, please visit our Mesothelioma and Asbestos FAQ or fill out our online form.


Do Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Differ?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or know someone who is, may have trouble understanding the cancerous condition and how it is distinct from other forms of cancer—in particular, lung cancer. The two forms of cancer are actually quite different. So what, exactly are the differences and what impact do those differences have?

One important difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma is how the two forms of cancer develop. Mesothelioma develops as an interconnected network of many tumors over a large area of tissue. Over time, the boundaries between healthy and cancerous tissue become indistinguishable. The structure and growth pattern of this form of cancer may dramatically limit options for patients receiving mesothelioma treatment. In many cases, removing malignant tissue becomes very difficult, if not impossible, because of the number of masses and the size of the affected area. Radiation works best on smaller areas of tissue, limiting its effectiveness with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, in many cases chemotherapy may not be sufficient to treat the large number of tumors. Eventually, these networks of masses overtake the tissue, limiting the movement of that tissue. Unfortunately, they tend to develop long before they become noticeable to the victim. By the time symptoms from the tumors are noticed, it is often too late for effective treatment.

The structure and growth of lung cancer is very different from that of mesothelioma. With lung cancer, tumors grow as distinct, individual masses, and boundaries of these masses are very clear. This is true even when there are several masses. While these isolated tumors can become very large and just as life threatening as mesothelioma, treatment may be more effective. Because the masses are so distinct, when caught early enough, they can sometimes be surgically removed. Radiation and chemotherapy tend to work better in these cases as well.

Other differences between these two forms of cancer include their rarity and their causes. In general, the incidence of mesothelioma is much smaller than that of lung cancer. Likewise, the causes of lung cancer can vary and overlap (including exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, pollutants, radon, and/or smoking), while mesothelioma causes are generally linked to asbestos exposure.

While there are many differences between these two forms of cancer, the early warning signs (when detected) of lung cancer and mesothelioma may be very similar. If you or someone you know is experiencing unusual and persistent respiratory symptoms, contact a doctor, as early detection may have a very real impact on the effectiveness of treatment.

For more information on mesothelioma, visit our mesothelioma and asbestos FAQ page, or read some of our mesothelioma articles.



Global Trends in the Use of Asbestos

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The history of asbestos regulation and enforcement varies around the world. In many places, dramatic and permanent changes have occurred. Elsewhere, asbestos is still mined and used without regulation. Still other places have adequate regulations but a lack of enforcement to ensure that regulations are followed.

Since the late 1960’s and 70’s, the United States government has created valuable regulations and enforcement policies. Sadly, for many naval ship workers, miners and factory workers, these changes came too late. To date, an estimated 100,000 people have either died or will die from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Trade of asbestos from South Africa ended in 2003, through the result of international negotiations. This has had an impact on use in other countries, as South Africa was a significant exporter up to that point.

Most European countries have taken a proactive approach, banning asbestos. Still, the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, who is responsible for tracking issues related to asbestos, says that construction workers in business prior to 2000 should be aware of the possibility of having been exposed to asbestos.

While regulated, asbestos is not banned in Canada. In fact, Canada is home to the infamous Jeffrey Mine, formerly the largest mine in the world, located in a town named, aptly, Asbestos. The mine is the subject of great controversy. Although the government has spent millions of dollars on asbestos abatement and monitoring industries affected by mesothelioma, some are pushing to reopen the mine and export the Chrysotile to places like Pakistan and India, where there are no such regulations.

Certain researchers predict that in the coming decades, Latin America will experience a rise in mesothelioma, since many Latin American countries have not put adequate enforcement in place. Due to a lack of accurate data, the impact of this trend is unknown. In the meantime, many workers are reportedly still exposed on a regular basis to harmful levels of asbestos.

Spencer Johnson said, “Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.” Sadly, Australia’s mesothelioma prevention measures represent that kind of change. In 2003, Australia banned the use of asbestos as a result of the tragic exposure of its workers and citizens to the Wittenoom blue asbestos mine. The mine stayed in operation for years after the Western Australia Health Department issued warnings about the risk of exposure. Although the mine was closed in 1966, it was too late for many workers, visitors and nearby residents who were exposed to extremely high levels of the potentially lethal material. Currently, Western Australia has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world.

Some of the most significant producers of asbestos and asbestos products are Asian or Pacific Island countries. China consumes approximately 600,000 tons in any given year. Although some Asian countries have bans and regulations in place, the large majority of Asian countries do not restrict the uses of asbestos.

International agreement is lacking about how to handle asbestos mining and exporting/importing. Because some industries currently depend on this material, it may be a slow and complicated process. Hopefully in the coming years, progress will be made toward global safety regulations and enforcement policies that protect everyone.

Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Caring for someone who is suffering from mesothelioma can be both mentally and physically exhausting. While trying to handle your own emotional stress, you may be called upon to manage some things you had not anticipated, such as scheduling, communications with various health professionals, managing appointments for mesothelioma treatment, monitoring medications and assisting with daily routines. As a first line of assistance, you might also be called to listen, comfort or even bear the brunt of a loved one’s misplaced anger. All of this can leave caregivers experiencing overwhelming grief and burnout.

Taking care of yourself is a critical prerequisite for providing quality care. It is important that caregivers create a structure of support for themselves from the very beginning. This includes eating and sleeping regularly and paying attention to those important personal routines that can easily fall to the wayside during times of stress. Consistently taking time-off to get a much-needed break is vital for maintaining your health. Plan ahead to include stress-reducing activities such as stretching, walking, reading or prayer and meditation. In addition to relaxation, exercise can help maintain your stamina throughout the day. While arranging for these breaks may involve hiring outside help, the renewed energy and outlook are well worth the trouble.

You may also need to find answers to your own questions about mesothelioma causes or mesothelioma victim’s rights. We have a number of mesothelioma articles that you may find very helpful.

Because your involvement could take a toll on you financially, you may want to investigate programs and benefits for which you qualify. For example, some insurance programs include reimbursement for caregiving and/or outside aid, such as housecleaning or other assistance.

Most importantly, don’t forget to ask for help. There are a variety of wonderful resources, hotlines and support groups available for caregivers in any given area. When stress appears, sometimes we ignore all indications that we need help. But if you are to provide quality care for your loved one, taking care of yourself is critical.



Industries Exposed to Asbestos

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

In the recent past, concern about exposure to asbestos has increased, along with the rise in known incidents of asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Statistics have shown that past (and in some cases, current) employment in certain industries has come with an increased risk of asbestos exposure.


In the 1970’s, research showed a probable link between cancer and the use of asbestos in brake shoes, pads and clutch discs. Many automobile assembly workers, auto mechanics, brake repair experts and production workers were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis. Since the 1990’s, the majority of these products have been manufactured with materials that are currently considered non-carcinogenic. However, mechanics working on older model cars may still be exposed to asbestos. The U.S. Department of Labor offers significant information on the history and handling of these and other mesothelioma-linked materials in high-risk industries.

Construction and Demolition

Before the mid-1970’s, asbestos was used in insulation around piping and boilers, as well as a strength-building additive in concrete slabs and pillars.  In even earlier decades, as far back as the 1930’s, asbestos was commonly sprayed onto materials, exposing workers to particles that could be easily inhaled.  While the use of asbestos has been banned in many applications, today, asbestos is still used in roofing tiles, slating and as an additive to cement. Construction and demolition workers may encounter asbestos when working with older materials or certain asbestos containing materials that have been damaged. High-risk jobs have included or may include bricklayers, drywall installers, inspectors, insulators, masonry workers, plumbers, construction workers, plasterers, roofers and other construction-related jobs.


Because of potential exposure to insulation and other construction materials, linemen, powerhouse workers and electricians may be at a higher risk for asbestos exposure. In addition, electrical cloth, panel partitions and wiring could contain asbestos.


In World War II, shipyard workers were exposed to many tons of asbestos, as it was used to line boilers, wrap pipes and cover parts. As a result, U.S. Navy personnel, sailors, laggers, longshoremen and yard workers were commonly exposed to asbestos, resulting in higher-than-average rates of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases in this group as well.


In the early 1980’s, the U.S. Navy began to shift from asbestos-containing materials to other materials. Prior to this change, asbestos was used in a variety Naval aircraft parts, including insulation and brake linings. Asbestos was released into the air during the installation and handling of insulation, as well as in the use and repair of brakes. Additionally, some epoxies and glues used in aircraft construction also contained asbestos. If the glue or epoxy was disturbed, the asbestos became airborne (or friable).

Other industries that have historically come in contact with asbestos include crane operators, manufacturers, machinists and asbestos textile mill workers. For more information, visit our mesothelioma articles, or our page on the history of asbestos.


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.


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.


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.


What Are Mesothelioma and Cancer?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

What is mesothelioma, and how does it occur? It’s an all-too-common question, with innumerable answers that may lead to even more questions. The human body is a complex and vulnerable system which can be affected by everything from genetics to our environment. At the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Information Exchange, we try to shed some light on these questions in order to better inform you.

Cancer can occur as a result of impairment of the DNA in human cells. Our bodies are made up an untold number of living cells, from receptor and blood cells to hair cells. Different cells perform different functions in the human body and the majority of cells have DNA. Human cells naturally produce, repair, grow, multiply and die, where new cells take the place of dying ones. With cancer, the altered or impaired DNA and cell do not expire; instead, they continue to multiply with new cells also containing the altered and impaired DNA. While researchers know that some cancer is a result of hereditary or environmental causes, in other cases, the cause isn’t always clear. Furthermore, different types of cancers operate differently. Some cancers may spread, while others do not. The technical name for the spread of cancer to other parts of the human body is metastasis.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer, which, is a result of impaired cells called mesothelium cells. These mesothelium cells act and behave somewhat like oil in a car, lubricating various body cavities, particularly the thoracic cavity surrounding the lungs. The cancer, as a result of damage to these cells, may result from exposure to asbestos particles. Sometimes, symptoms of the cancer do not appear until decades after exposure. This cancer is often discovered via chest x-ray, CT Scan or biopsy.  Mesothelioma treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.