1.3 million employees in construction and industry face asbestos exposure on the job

It is estimated that there will be about 250,000 cases of Mesothelioma before 2020.

An estimated 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry face significant asbestos exposure on the job. Heaviest exposures occur in the construction industry, particularly during the removal of asbestos during renovation or demolition. Employees are also likely to be exposed during the manufacture of asbestos products (such as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials) and during automotive brake and clutch repair work.

Asbestos is a generic name given to a fibrous variety of six naturally occurring minerals that have been used for decades in the development of thousands of commercial products. The term “Asbestos” is not a mineralogical definition but a commercial name given to a group of minerals that possess high tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to chemical and thermal degradation, and electrical resistance. These minerals have been used in many products, including insulation and fireproofing materials, automotive brakes and textile products, and cement and wallboard materials.

Asbestos minerals have a tendency to separate into microscopic-size particles that can remain in the air and are easily inhaled. Persons occupationally exposed to asbestos have developed several types of life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer. Although the use of asbestos and asbestos products has dramatically decreased, they are still found in many residential and commercial settings and continue to pose a health risk to workers and others.

Asbestos Diseases

As asbestos fibers accumulate in the lungs, several types of diseases may occur. Asbestosis is a scarring of the lung tissue. This scarring impairs the elasticity of the lung and hampers its ability to exchange gases. This leads to inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. Asbestos restricts breathing leading to decreased lung volume and increased resistance in the airways. It is a slow, progressive disease with a latency period of 15 to 30 years.

The next type of disease attributed to asbestos exposure is Mesothelioma . It is a cancer of the pleural lining. It is considered to be exclusively related to asbestos exposure. By the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal. Similar to other asbestos related diseases, Mesothelioma has a longer latency period of 30 to 40 years.

Lung Cancer is a malignant tumor of the bronchi covering. The tumor grows through surrounding tissue, invading and often obstructing air passages. The time between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of lung cancer is 20 to 30 years. It should be noted that there is a synergistic effect between smoking and asbestos exposure, which creates an extreme susceptibility to lung cancer.

Asbestos History

Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos. Health hazards from asbestos fibers have been recognized in workers exposed in shipbuilding trades, asbestos mining and milling, manufacturing of asbestos textiles and other asbestos products, insulation work in the construction and building trades, brake repair, and a variety of other trades. Demolition workers, drywall removers, and firefighters also may be exposed to asbestos fibers. As a result of Government regulations and improved work practices, today’s workers (those without previous exposure) are likely to face smaller risks than those exposed in the past.

Although it is known that the risk to workers increases with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposures. Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from 10 to 40 years for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an asbestos related cancer. Malignant Mesothelioma is a disease in which cancer cells are found in the sac lining the chest or abdomen. Most people with malignant Mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos and have thus contracted cancer from asbestos.

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