Mesothelioma (Asbestos Related Cancer) Overview
Mesothelioma is a cancer which is caused by asbestos exposure. Other factors can increase the likelihood of developing the cancer, but it virtually never occurs without exposure to asbestos. It can take up to 50 years after asbestos exposure to develop symptoms. Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, often fatal, and incredibly painful.
The mesothelium is a membrane which covers the internal organs of your body, protecting them and providing the lubrication they need to move properly. Mesothelioma is a cancer which invades the mesothelium.
Pleural mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers and affects the lungs. It makes up about 70% to 80% of mesothelioma cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma, accounting for about 10% to 20% of mesothelioma, is caused by swallowing the fibers and affects organs in the abdomen.
Asbestos is a heat and fire resistant substance which has been used in many industries since the late 1800's. The use of asbestos has been banned in most new products and new construction. Many older buildings still contain asbestos, including schools, houses, and public buildings. Products manufactured before the ban are still being sold. Asbestos has been used in over 3,000 different products including:
- Ceiling tiles
- Brake pads
- Potting soil
Most mesothelioma, about 70% to 80% is the result of asbestos exposure in the workplace. Asbestos exposure is most likely if you have worked in industries and workplaces which directly involve working with asbestos and asbestos products including:
- Asbestos manufacturing
- Asbestos removal
- Oil refineries
- Automotive manufacturing and repair
- Appliance manufacturing
- Steel mills
- Power plants
- Rail roads
You may be exposed to asbestos in the workplace if you work in a building which contains asbestos. This is common in older schools, where teachers and students alike are constantly and unknowingly exposed.
If you have worked around asbestos, you may have brought it home on your clothes and exposed your family, too.
Heavy exposure to asbestos in the U.S. began in the 1940's, however the dangers of exposure were known and documented as early as 1900. It wasn't until the 1970's that the federal government started imposing strict regulations on asbestos use. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned new uses of asbestos in 1989, but previously established uses were not affected by the ban.
Although asbestos use has dropped sharply, mainly due to public awareness, there are still many buildings and products containing asbestos, and people are still unknowingly being exposed. In fact, many people believe that asbestos has been outlawed and eradicated, and therefore, no longer look out for it in their homes and workplaces.
In buildings, asbestos can be removed or encapsulated. Asbestos abatement is highly regulated, and when done improperly, can cause more harm than good. If you believe that your home or workplace contains asbestos, you should never try to test for it or remove it yourself, as you could release the fibers and cause greater exposure.
Most mesothelioma patients don't even know they have mesothelioma until many years after their exposure and, typically, by that time, the disease is at an advanced stage. Mesothelioma is very resistant to treatment, and patients are typically given a very poor prognosis.
Treatment of mesothelioma is very extensive and costly. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you may be entitled to compensation including, but not limited to, current and future medical bills and care. In addition, because the progress of the disease is virtually inevitable by the time it has been discovered and because many of the companies who exposed their workers to asbestos knew the dangers at the time, mesothelioma victims and their families may be entitled large damage awards for pain and suffering, wrongful death, loss of companionship, and more.
If you suspect that a loved one has mesothelioma, please contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney today.