Mesothelioma Awareness Day: How Asbestos Continues to Impact Our Health

This year is the 17th anniversary of Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Recognized on September 26th, awareness is brought to this rare cancer that is diagnosed in roughly 3,000 new patients in the United States annually. What many do not know is that the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in a variety of different industries, but most commonly in construction. Unfortunately, asbestos continues to wreak havoc on homeowners and those who work in professions with heightened exposure. Part of spreading awareness is understanding the dangers of this carcinogen, how to prevent exposure, and ultimately, how we can make mesothelioma a disease of the past.

Asbestos Usage In Buildings And Homes

The height of asbestos usage in the United States was between the 1920s and 1980s. Not only was this mineral cheap, but it was unmatched when it came to sound absorption and heat resistance. This made it one of the best additives for building materials, as it would slow the progression of a fire if it were to occur. Insulation, vinyl floors, roofing tiles, heating ducts, plaster and permaboard are just some of the many materials asbestos was incorporated into. If you live in a home or building built prior to the 1980s, there is a high likelihood that it harbors some form of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

The real danger occurs when these ACMs begin to degrade and become brittle. When ACMs become damaged, they can release microscopic asbestos fibers into the air, where they can then enter your body and cause damage to internal organs. To avoid this, ACMs should be removed and replaced with a green alternative by EPA-certified professionals. In order to know if your residence contains asbestos, you will need to get suspected materials tested first. Once it is known how widespread the issue is throughout your home, the cost will be assessed for the abatement. Removing ACMs can range anywhere from $500 to $5,000 on average, which can be daunting. However, having the peace of mind that you and your family are safer because of it is worth every penny.

Mesothelioma Cancer

When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can cling to the linings of our internal organs, such as the lungs, heart or stomach. Once embedded into our organs, these fibers cause scarring and damage, leading to the development of tumors over the next 10 to 50 years. Symptoms do not arise until a later stage of life, with the target demographic being 65 years of age and older. Some of the most common symptoms are coughing, chest pain, night sweats, trouble breathing and weight loss. Mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed in the lungs, accounting for 80 to 90% of all cases. It is important to note that mesothelioma is one of the only non-genetic cancers to exist, meaning that it can almost wholly be avoided if we are vigilant about limiting exposure.

Known as the “third wave,” we are now seeing exposure occur in people outside of those who worked with this carcinogen or dealt with it on a daily basis, such as in a factory setting. People renovating homes or in fields such as construction or engineering are unknowingly exposing themselves. Employers and employees alike need to not only become educated about this dangerous carcinogen, but should also be supplied with the best personal protective equipment (PPE), as to limit the chances of being exposed on the job. This means protection such as protective disposable clothing, face masks with filters and eye protection. We can greatly reduce instances of exposure if we are aware of the threats of asbestos and use safety protocol to our advantage.

Spreading Awareness

If you have loved ones that work in a high-risk occupation, share this information with them and be sure they are utilizing PPE. If you plan on renovating an older home, have certain materials tested before you start breaking down walls and ripping out insulation. With the right measures in place, we will begin to see mesothelioma diagnosed less and less, but we must continue to spread awareness about asbestos in order for this to occur.