There is no way for a person to determine if they will develop mesothelioma within their lifetime. Mesothelioma is rare cancer, that is caused primarily by exposure to asbestos or asbestos fibers. These fibers are a byproduct of mineral rock deposits found in some regions of the earth. Once the rock or deposits have been extracted or mined, the fibers or particulates are released freely from its dormant state out of the ground. The fibrous nature of asbestos still makes the material just as prone to be dispersed as a finished product; therefore, being exposed to inhalation by anyone in the proximate area. When inhaled, these fibers will pass through the lungs and, once processed, are usually swallowed before they settle in the lining of the chest or abdominal area. Once the asbestos fibers are inhaled, they collect or build-up (like a form of plaque) over time and can cause the rare cancer formation of what is known as mesothelioma. Asbestos is no stranger to workers who had a career in any vocational industry over the last century. These individuals, due to long-term exposure working with or around asbestos, are still part of a high-risk group that is typically more predisposed to develop mesothelioma.
Asbestos Fiber Exploitation
Asbestos is extracted from the earth and is an environmental health hazard. No matter the texture or size, most asbestos fibers are extremely resistant to heat; and highly acid-resistant. Economically, asbestos was cost-effectively and readily accessible for extraction from North American mines. The abundance of mineral rock and natural deposits were readily available as a resource for the mass infusion of fibrous material that has been an institution for the foundation of the mass use of asbestos products over the last century. Since the extraction and production of asbestos began, there have been over 3,000 different variations of commercial uses with the material.
The disruption or removal of mineral rock presents the most direct or frequent exposure of asbestos fibers released into the immediate environment; in turn, mineral rock, can also naturally expel asbestos fibers by the weathering of the enriched rock or deposit. For a natural occurrence to happen, an area must hold a significant presence of a region full of viable mineral rock or an enriched mineral deposit (such as talc) for an area to naturally emit the content into the immediate environment. Due to highly isolated events that have to occur, in order, for asbestos fibers to release into the atmosphere, there is no known or practiced standard for measuring the emission of naturally airborne asbestos into the surrounding environment so the natural emission of asbestos into the atmosphere would not be invasive compared to the exposure caused by voluntary extraction or production.
Since 2002, mining exclusively for asbestos is no longer performed in the United States. As a result, from the past and present exploitation of asbestos fibers used across the broad spectrum of industries, there will be an inherited environmental footprint left as a burden for future generations to bear.
The six types of classified asbestos fibers identified.
With asbestos existing as a fibrous form, there are six fiber types noticed, such as Chrysotile, Anthophyllite, Amosite, Actinolite, Crocidolite, and Tremolite. In turn, all asbestos fibers are not the same; in comparison, some have long, medium, and short-grain stems or ends. There has been an insignificant showing of a more heightened risk associated with the length or size of asbestos fiber. Some asbestos fibers may pose more of an inhalation risk than others.
Chrysotile is the most common asbestos in the world; the fiber comes from the serpentine mineral or serpentinite rock. Accordingly, over ninety-five percent of all products in the United States come from the Chrysotile type asbestos fiber. Chrysotile asbestos fibers are used primarily for use in building products, insulation in commercial and residential structures; packaging materials; automotive parts; and laboratory products.
Anthophyllite is another type of asbestos fiber that could be the least common of all of the six classes. This rare type is extremely acid-resistant and found in talc deposits. Anthophyllite saw limited uses in insulation, cement, and roofing material at one time.
Amosite asbestos fibers were used mainly before the 1970s and one of the most common forms of asbestos mined for use in pipefitting or steel-work usage, aside from the chrysotile fiber. The amosite fiber is best known for its use in acoustical insulation.
Actinolite was another commonly used type of asbestos fiber, but for the fact that it is not acid-resistant. Actinolite can be more prevalent in products required or produced by woven materials such as brake pads or clutch plates, textiles or similar packing materials, and plastics or laboratory products.
Crocidolite is highly acid-resistant and is not susceptible to heat resistance, as compared to other asbestos fibers. Due to the brittle texture of this type of asbestos fiber, the danger is apparent for the ends to be naturally crushed; therefore, making inhalation of this fiber much more dangerous.
Tremolite is another asbestos fiber found in mineral rocks of vermiculite and talc deposits. Tremolite is an asbestos classification type. This fiber is unique because it is also an actual trace contaminant found within the most common asbestos fiber type classification of chrysotile. On record, tremolite was the asbestos classification type associated with the notorious mining area incident near Libby, MT, which became the first public health emergency declared by the United States EPA, in 2009.
On the contrary, all types of fibers become exposed with the surrounding environment either through immediate contact or several methods such as; drilling or blasting in a mining operation; also, to the post-extraction activities of grinding, milling, crushing, and bagging the extracted minerals or deposits; pre-ban era manufacturing of asbestos products; laboratory research; energy services industries; and the demolition of older buildings or structures with asbestos present in the insulation, ceiling, flooring, roofing, drywall, or cement.
High-risk areas and occupations
High-risk areas that still have an initial adverse risk exposure from asbestos fibers are quite prevalent today. From direct exposure of asbestos in the past, the prevalence of the long-term development of the rare cancer is now more transparent over time due to the past practices of manufacturing, mining, and non-regulated (Pre-OSHA, EPA) industry or construction work standards. Although research and studies have shown the present and the past industries still have a lingering effect on the environment. Certain occupations with steady volatile work environments seem to increase the likelihood of an individual to be more prone to developing mesothelioma.
Since the last century, workers in the fields of high-risk areas known for exposure such as mining or asbestos mining; construction; power plants; chemical production or tank farms; naval or shipyard sites; firefighters; and combat veterans seem to be the most volatile groups for high-risk exposure to asbestos or future development of mesothelioma. Currently, these occupations are still the most commonly susceptible group found to be more likely than not to develop full-onset mesothelioma, in comparison, with any other vocational group or the general public.
Accelerated and Enhanced Development of Mesothelioma
In general, active, long-term exposure of asbestos can be more conducive towards the onset of mesothelioma. The initial instance of asbestos contact from inception to the arrival of mesothelioma cannot arrive within a short duration of time. The likelihood of being diagnosed with mesothelioma is usually not developed within a timeframe of less than 20 to 50 years. Time and exposure are some of the most significant issues for any person to determine their candidacy for the risk of developing mesothelioma. Conclusively, the formation of onset mesothelioma seems to trend toward long-term exposure to asbestos. Although someone might conclude that consistent at length exposure to asbestos may be the only way to enhance or shorten the duration toward full onset mesothelioma. Studies have shown an alternative to enhanced development from exposure at length to asbestos does exist through the frequent use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
By happenstance, alcohol or tobacco use can accelerate the present exposure from asbestos fibers by agitating the asbestos particulates that have already settled in the lining of the lungs and abdominal area. Inhalation of tobacco smoke not only passes tobacco smoke or carcinogens into the lungs but, at the same time, irritates the already present or dormant particles of asbestos fibers that have built up in the body. Prolonged exposure from asbestos fibers combined with the use of tobacco products will have an enhanced effect on the development of contracting mesothelioma.
Studies have shown that individual smokers who have been exposed to asbestos can be 84 times more likely to develop asbestos-related lung cancer. The effects of smoking alone can weaken lung tissue thus preventing the body from thoroughly clean the lungs of irritants and contaminants from smoking tobacco. A combined impact from asbestos exposure along with smoking can inhibit the passage of clearing other pollutants already present in the lining of the lungs, and then force more particles to be trapped in the area.
As a result, regular smokers are shown to be 28 times more likely to develop a common lung cancer just through combined asbestos exposure alone. Therefore, smokers have an exceptionally enhanced risk of contracting mesothelioma as well as developing common lung cancer alone.
We all are at risk, but are some more than others? How do we change?
Is it possible that any person could be exposed at one point or time? Answering the question may not be a matter of what or where, but when and how long. Remember, the length of time and consistent exposure seem to increase for past workers who were subject to those years involved in their trade. As seen, the most apparent cause of environmental exposure to asbestos is from human extraction. Now the proof is available to show that alternative human habits such as smoking tobacco, can irritate and accelerate the risk of developing mesothelioma.
Taking drastic steps to halt any direct or indirect mineral extraction or asbestos product interaction that exposes the environment to the airborne disbursement of asbestos
fibers will curtail future events. Studies have shown direct correlations of scenarios involving occupational hazards and preventative safety measures can reduce the harmful exposure of asbestos. Past asbestos use, along with its present existence, will be a continuous problem until more future environmental remediation or removal of the contaminated areas can be isolated and completed.
No matter what the occupation, the danger of exposure has to be present and the interaction of consistent lengths of time exists for the likelihood of mesothelioma to develop. There is no exact correlation or time table set. Still, from general knowledge, the more you are around the danger, the more likely you are to become a high-risk candidate for mesothelioma.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma there are various financial assistance options that a mesothelioma lawyer can help you pursue. From litigation to trust funds, contacting an asbestos attorney may be worth looking into.