You have heard the words. You may have seen the commercials. But do you really know about asbestos? Asbestos was a popular mineral used in manufacturing and construction because of its sound absorption, its strength, resistance to fire, and because it was cheap. It was a great insulator in buildings and electrical work. It was used in ship yards, textiles, houses, buildings, schools, etc.
By the end of the 19th century, people started noticing ailments associated with the use and exposure to asbestos. in the 1920's, asbestosis was described in literature and by 1950's, a study was published linking asbestos to cancer.
Let's get scientific here. Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by prolong exposure to asbestos fibers. An occupational hazard to put it mildly. The fibers get trapped in the lungs and the tissue scars over it, thickening up the chest wall. The scarring makes it difficult to breathe and for oxygen to properly get into the blood. There is no cure for asbestosis. Doctors can help you manage your symptoms.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer (Yes, CANCER) that develops from cells of the mesothelium, or the protective lining in the body covering most of the organs. The most common site is in the pleura, which is the outer lining of the lungs. It can also happen in the lining of the abdominal cavity, the sac around the heart, or the sac that surrounds mens' testis. Mesothelioma can develop from exposure to ONE FIBER OF ASBESTOS. Symptoms may not appear for 20 to 50 years after exposure. That is a very scary thing! So the cancer may have been developing for years before you know it, and the cancer may be aggressive before it is diagnosed, making for a poor prognosis. Early diagnosis is more favorable, but even then, prognosis may be 5 years at best.
My uncle passed away from mesothelioma. My aunt watched as the cancer ravaged his body. At the end, he was hardly able to walk or talk. It was such a sad sight. No body should have to die like this. No one should have to watch their loved one go out like this.
Many veterans today are dealing with exposure to asbestos. Families of men and women who worked with asbestos were also exposed. The workers would come home with asbestos fibers on their clothing, children played with mom or dad, or all the clothes were washed together. Fibers were transferred, thus potentially exposing everyone in the house.
If you live in a house built before 1978 or if your kids go to school in a building built before 1978, there is a great chance it has asbestos in it. HOWEVER, that does not mean you have been exposed. As long as the asbestos is in tact, not messed with, etc, the fibers do not get out. Regulations are in place for abatement (removal of) of asbestos in schools when needed and where warranted. I worked with regulations and monitoring of asbestos removal in Louisiana for four years. Areas are sealed off, the material is kept wet or encapsulated so fibers can not escape, air monitoring is conducted before, during and after, and the waste was double bagged and properly hauled off. It is very important to know if your house had asbestos in it before you begin remodeling. General contractors can not remove asbestos. Only properly trained companies can do this.
Federal regulations for use of, exposure to, and handling asbestos did not begin until the 1970's. So anyone who worked with it prior to had exposure. Asbestos is still not completely banned in the United States. There are many regulations on what can and can not be used, but it is still allowed in some instances. Visit the EPA's website to learn more.
Let's back off of the scary now, ok? How about a survival story? Heather is a survivor of mesothelioma. Visit her site to learn her story. Share her story. Asbestos Awareness Week is April 1-7. Pass on the information. The only way to be prepared, to prevent exposure, is to be educated. The website http://www.mesothelioma.com/ is a great place to start looking at information on mesothelioma, asbestos, exposure, etc.