Though asbestos-related diseases have been documented since the early 20th century, it wasn’t until 1960 that people truly understood what causes mesothelioma. In an article published by pathologist J.C. Wagner, he analyzed 30 cases of people with the disease, finding that all of them were exposed to asbestos regularly prior to diagnosis. Now researchers, doctors, and society understand that asbestos is the root cause of this condition, which is one of the major reasons that asbestos is currently banned from most uses in America. However, this ban has only been in place since 1989, and many people are still diagnosed with the disease every year and likely will be until asbestos has been phased out completely.
WHAT CAUSES MESOTHELIOMA DURING ASBESTOS EXPOSURE?
Asbestos was long prized for its resistance to heat, shock, and corrosion, making it a natural building additive in structures, vehicles, and aircraft. During construction, asbestos fibers are added to the building material, reinforcing it. In nature, asbestos is one of the families of silicates that produce microscopic fibrous structures that appear to be crystalline. Asbestos fibers are smaller than many forms of bacteria.
Because they are so small, whenever asbestos is agitated, through either mining, demolition, natural disaster, or aging, these fibers are easily suspended in the air. Once in the air, they can be readily inhaled by anyone nearby. Asbestos fibers settle in the lungs and around the lining of the heart or abdomen. Here, they provoke an immune response from the body, which inflames the area and sends white blood cells to digest the fibers. However, the body’s natural defenses are unable to remove asbestos fibers, and in the process, this produces masses of scar tissue. Over time, the scar tissue will build up, initially resulting in fibrosis and then mesothelioma if the mass becomes cancerous.
HOW IS THIS DISEASE DEADLY?
While cancer is always a major medical issue, this type of cancer is especially deadly and is usually fatal within months because it is often found late. The initial symptoms of the cancer are similar to respiratory infections, and they may not be severe enough to urge a person to see a doctor. Coughing, fatigue, and chest pain may be the only symptoms present at first, so doctors will likely misdiagnose patients in the beginning. By the time symptoms significantly worsen, and doctors catch the tumor in the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen, it is typically too late to halt its progression.
WHO IS AT RISK OF ASBESTOS EXPOSURE?
Miners, aircraft and vehicle mechanics, electricians, shipyard workers, building engineers, railroad workers, construction workers, and boiler operators are at the highest risk of asbestos exposure. However, police officers and firefighters may also be exposed to asbestos during a response to a building containing the material. Because asbestos is still found in many buildings, vehicles, and aircraft carriers, it is typically impossible to know whether or not a person has been exposed unless they receive a physical examination.
Anyone who has a positive diagnosis with this disease should consider contacting Terry Bryant. People who are inflicted with this often fatal disease deserve the best representation before the court.