General Mesothelioma Information

Causes and Consequences of Mesothelioma

Asbestos is a naturally occurring but dangerous mineral that was commonly used for insulation in homes, schools, and offices until 1972.  For the most part, it is not dangerous when undisturbed.  However, when it has been disturbed, small particles of fiber become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs where the body is unable to break the mineral down.  Airborne asbestos particles are often referred to as "friable asbestos," and when the asbestos is still intact, it is called "non-friable asbestos." 

While there are no studies that delineate a threshold level of dangerous or lethal exposure, it is well understood that more exposure to friable asbestos means a greater chance of developing one of three serious medical conditions associated with asbestos: asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.  All three of these conditions manifest decades after exposure and can result in death.  Cigarette smokers are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than non-smokers.

Risks of Mesothelioma

Exposure to asbestos typically occurs in one of several settings.  The most common of course is industry employees who are exposed while manufacturing asbestos-related products.  Despite the fact that the Federal government placed restrictions and bans on the vast majority of asbestos products and uses, chrysotile asbestos (often called "white asbestos") continues to be used in products like ceiling tiles, roofing tiles, and as an ingredient in an asbestos-cement compound.  Also, automobile repair workers, specifically those who specialize in clutch and brake repairs, are sometimes at risk for mesothelioma and other medical conditions.

Exposure also occurs often in the construction setting.  In this scenario, construction workers become exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos when they disturb insulation that was installed prior to 1972.  This occurs most often in the course of demolition or refurbishing of old buildings.  Employers in this setting are required to follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) standards and guidelines to monitor the potential for exposure to mesothelioma-linked hazards.

OSHA Standards and Classification for Asbestos Exposure

The OSHA safety standards are broken down into four classifications which prescribe specific requirements for the safe handling of friable asbestos in the event of exposure.

Employers are required to conduct daily monitoring for mesothelioma and other health problems for workers involved in Class I and Class II jobs.  Employers in the other two classes are required to conduct periodic monitoring.  Anytime workers are exposed to asbestos beyond the permissible exposure limit (PEL), employers are required to provide protective clothing and respiratory protection for workers as well as a hygiene area for decontamination in the event of exposure beyond the PEL.