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A Brief Look into the Dangers of Asbestos

7/26/2013 4:35:03 PM | by Chris Evans

Insulation Materials: Asbestos

The 20th century has seemingly brought about the rise and fall of asbestos. Famed for its ability to insulate the material was utilised in many trades but was primarily used as an insulator in the building industry. As demand grew for the product so did the amount of people exposed to the product as huge numbers of these workers started developing all manner of respiratory issues.


Studies conducted in the 1920's by several large asbestos distributors confirmed everyone’s worst fears that asbestos was responsible. However this information was not made readily available and the exposure of industrial workers continued up until the late 20th century in many countries and is still used today in others.


As I mentioned early asbestos has been linked with several severe illnesses mainly respiratory issues and this has lead to thousands of industrial compensation claims being pursued by employees who are suffering due to a negligent employer.


Although asbestos is banned these claims are still prevalent and are owed to the lengthy periods of dormancy or latency. Many asbestos related illnesses do not develop fully or even start showing symptoms until 15-55 years after initial exposure.



I will start with this illness as I believe it to be the most life threatening of all of the conditions, currently mesothelioma is responsible for the deaths of more industrial workers than all the other industrial diseases combined.


Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer generally found in one of 3 areas and has therefore been divided into 3 categories:


Pleural mesothelioma – A form of cancer found within the lining of the lungs. The pleura is a sac which holds the lungs and enables them to inflate/ deflate appropriately. Pleura mesothelioma is the most common of the main 3 and it is estimated that 75% of all asbestos cases are of this type.


Peritoneal mesothelioma – Affecting a thin cell membrane known as the peritoneum, these collection of cells are located in the gastrointestinal tract but also feature in the stomach and intestines.


Pericardial mesothelioma – The rarest of the main 3 types only affecting only accounting for around 5% of all mesothelioma cases and affects the sac around the heart. Once again asbestos exposure is responsible for this type of illnesses.


Mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed or even not detected at all as the symptoms are often so subtle that it can be confused with other less serious diseases. Experts believe that this is one of the main factors for its staggering mortality rate.


There is currently no cure for mesothelioma and treatment options are very similar to that of other cancer treatments (chemo/ radiotherapy). Although treatments have improved dramatically over the past few decades the sad truth remains that once diagnosed a patient is given a life expectancy averaging 18 months.



This is another extremely dangerous illness although the mortality rate is not nearly as high as in those who have been diagnosed with asbestosis. Asbestosis is a relatively rare condition and like mesothelioma has an extended latency period often spanning upwards of 30 years. Asbestosis also generally requires extended exposure to the material before it will materialise, it is a form of scarring found in the lungs and sufferers will experience shortness of breath as well as 'chesty coughing'.


Physical activities will become far more difficult to participate in and in extremely severe cases the condition may be fatal. There is currently no cure for asbestosis as it is not possible to repair lung damage caused by asbestos. Those who are suffering with asbestosis are encouraged to cease smoking habits immediately as failure to do so significantly increases you chance of developing lung cancer and tumours.

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