Asbestos in the Work Place

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was incorporated into more than 5,000 products, was largely utilized for its heat and fire resistant properties. Some of the work occupations that have been affected by asbestos are: automotive, construction, firefighters, power plants, shipping industry, textile industry, and veterans. Asbestos exposure happens when the mineral is disturbed, broken into fibers released into the air, and inhaled.

It is stated that in the United States alone 100,000 people have or will die from asbestos exposure in the ship building profession alone, this was due to the high amount of asbestos used during World War II and the large amount of workers in the maritime field. Fire fighters are another occupational field that has a high rate of asbestos exposure due to the fires and damage to buildings that cause the asbestos to be exposed and broken down into fibers. Workers in the construction field past in present are also at risk. In the past asbestos was commonly used as an insulator up to 1985 and workers in this field came into contact with it only a daily basis.

Presently workers in this field are exposed during remodeling or any type of work around older buildings containing the harmful material. Other everyday workers can also be affected by asbestos. If the building in which you work in contains asbestos and it is not properly taken care of it can become fibrous and released into the air. Many companies neglect this hazard and don’t properly take care of asbestos whether that may be to encapsulate it or abate it.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to health effects including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. There are four types of mesothelioma: peritoneal, pericardial, pleural and testicular. These cancers affect the abdomen, membrane of the heart, lining of the lungs and the testes respectively. Pleural is the most common type of mesothelioma occurring in 75% of patients while testicular mesothelioma is the rarest only having about 100 cases reported.

The time it takes for exposure to asbestos to have negative health effects can take 20-50 years. In most patients this leads to a late diagnosis when the disease is already in an advanced stage of development. On average, the mesothelioma life span ranges between four and 18 months following diagnosis.