What is Asbestos
Asbestos was one of the most common building materials in the USA until the late 1970s, when large numbers of industrial workers who used it developed cancer. A small fiber mined on six continents, asbestos is prized for its ability to add strength and heat resistance to a variety of materials. At its peak in 1973, the United States used 795,000 metric tons of asbestos in roofs, floors, insulation and hundreds of other products. (A metric ton is 2,200 pounds.)
The crusade to remove asbestos results from a failure to make a distinction about when asbestos is dangerous. Asbestos dust has caused tragic rates of cancer in miners and workers who made and installed asbestos products with insufficient precautions. The workers inhaled asbestos fibers, often for years or decades.
But once products with asbestos are installed, so few fibers are released that the air inside even the most asbestos-rich building is indistinguishable from the air outdoors.
Mesothelioma cancer most commonly develops in the lungs of people exposed to asbestos. Effective treatments are available to ease symptoms and improve your prognosis. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. It usually affects the thin, protective membrane surrounding the lungs, heart or abdominal cavity. Doctors diagnose an estimated 3,000 cases of mesothelioma a year in the United States, and the majority of those are traced to job-related exposure.
Although asbestos use declined dramatically in recent decades in this country, the incidence of mesothelioma remains steady. That difference can be traced to the distinct latency period linked to mesothelioma. The disease can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos before it shows obvious symptoms and an oncologist can make a definitive diagnosis. While no cure for the disease exists and the prognosis is typically poor, researchers made significant progress in recent years in understanding mesothelioma and developing new treatment options and alternative therapies. How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma cancer develops after exposure to asbestos, which most often occurs in old houses, schools and public buildings. It usually takes long-term exposure to put someone at risk, asbestos is highly toxic. Even short-term and one-time exposures are known to cause mesothelioma cancer. Microscopic asbestos fibers are breathed in or swallowed. The human body has difficulty destroying or getting rid of these fibers. Over decades, the fibers cause biological changes that result in inflammation, scarring and genetic damage. The most susceptible area to these fibers is the lining of the lungs, called the pleura, although fibers also can become trapped in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). Once fibers cause biological damage, the stage is set for the decades-long latency period for the development of malignant mesothelioma.