What Is Asbestos? Mesothelioma and Health Effects

Everything you need to know about asbestos removal and what is mesothelioma.  More than $30 billion has been set aside for victims of mesothelioma and asbestos related diseases.

What is asbestos and how to asbestos removal?

Asbestos is formed by a group of minerals that occurs naturally in the form of a set of fibers. These fibers are found in soil and rocks in many parts of the world. They are made mainly of silicon and oxygen, although they also contain other elements. There are two main types of asbestos:

  • The chrysotile , also known as white asbestos is the most common type of asbestos in industrial applications. When viewed under a microscope, the chrysotile fibers are coiled together in a spiral, which is why this form of asbestos is also known as serpentine asbestos or curly fibers.
  • The amphibole asbestos fibers are in the form of straight needles. There are several types of amphibole fibers such as amosite (brown or brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite.

Both types of asbestos have been associated with cancer. With this graph you can understand better what is and how to asbestos removal.

Asbestos fibers can be useful because they are strong, resistant to heat and many chemicals, and are not electrically conductive. Consequently, asbestos has been used as insulating material for quite some time. Since the industrial revolution, asbestos has been used to isolate factories, schools, houses and ships, as well as to manufacture parts of the car brakes and clutches, roofing tiles, floor slabs, cement, textiles and hundreds of other products.

During the first half of the twentieth century, there was growing evidence that breathing in places with asbestos fibers caused scar deformity in the lungs. Exposure to asbestos dust in the workplace was not controlled at that time. England was the first place during the 1930s where measures were taken to protect workers in the asbestos industry by installing exhaust ventilation and exhaust systems. However, during major shipbuilding efforts in World War II, a large number of workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos.

During the second half of the twentieth century, as asbestos-related cancers were better detected, measures were taken to reduce exposure, setting standards against exposure, as well as laws prohibiting the use of asbestos For building materials. In the United States, there has been a drastic decline in the import and use of asbestos since the mid-1970s, with alternative alternatives to insulating materials being developed. As a result, exposure to asbestos has drastically decreased.

However, asbestos is still used in some products and it is still possible to expose to asbestos in some old buildings and pipes, among other structures. The use of asbestos has been banned in the European Union since 2005, Although this prohibition does not require the removal of asbestos in existing structures. However, the use of asbestos in large quantities continues to occur in some countries.

How are people exposed to asbestos?

People may be exposed to asbestos in several ways:

  • Inhalation of asbestos: exposure mainly comes from the inhalation of asbestos fibers in the air. This may occur during asbestos mining and processing, as well as during the production of products containing asbestos or the installation of insulation material with asbestos. It may also occur during the demolition or renovation of old buildings, or when old asbestos-containing material is being dismantled. In any of these situations, asbestos fibers tend to create a dust composed of tiny particles that can float in the air.
  • Asbestos fiber swallowing: Asbestos fibers can also be swallowed, which may occur when people consume contaminated food or liquids (such as water flowing through asbestos cement pipes). It can also occur when people cough up asbestos they have inhaled and then swallow their saliva.

Many people are exposed to very low levels of asbestos naturally found outdoors, as a result of asbestos-containing stone erosion. The risk of such exposure is greater in regions where rocks have a higher asbestos content. In some regions, asbestos can be detected in the water supply as well as in the air. It may reach the water through various sources, such as erosion of soil or rocks, corrosion of asbestos cement pipes or disintegration of asbestos-containing roofing materials, which then pass into the sewer after to rain.

However, those with a higher exposure are those who worked in the asbestos industry, such as shipbuilding and handling of insulation. Many of these people remember working in dense clouds of asbestos dust, day after day.

Relatives of asbestos workers may also be exposed to a high level, as workers bring asbestos fibers home through clothing and can be inhaled by others in the home.

Exposure to asbestos in old buildings is also an existing concern. If asbestos-containing building materials, such as the oldest insulation, shingles and slabs begin to decompose over time, asbestos fibers can be found in the indoor air, which could pose a threat to human health. There is no health risk if asbestos is secured in intact finished products, such as walls and slabs. As long as the material is not damaged or disrupted (for example, drilling or remodeling), the fibers will not come out into the air. Maintenance workers who sweep and discard asbestos dust, or handle damaged asbestos-containing materials, are often exposed to higher levels than other people in those buildings.

Although asbestos use has declined in the United States, people may still be exposed to asbestos in the workplace. In recent years, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Estimated that more than one million US employees in the construction industry and other sectors face significant exposure to asbestos at work.

Mining and the use of asbestos is also still a health hazard in some parts of the world. Mining in the Russian Federation, China, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Canada and Zimbabwe accounts for almost the entire world production of asbestos.

Much of what is produced is used in the Russian Federation (and other countries of the former Soviet Union) and Asia and its use is increasing in some areas. In 2005, the World Health Organization estimated that approximately 125 million people worldwide were exposed to asbestos in their jobs, despite the known relationship it has with cancer and other lung diseases for more than 60 years.

Does asbestos cause cancer?

Researchers use two major types of studies to try to determine if a substance causes cancer.

  • Studies in people: One type of study analyzes the rates of cancer in different groups of people. Such a study could compare the rate of cancer in a group exposed to a substance with the rate in a group not exposed to it, or compare this to the rate of cancer in the general population. However, it may be difficult to know what the results of the studies mean, as many other factors could affect outcomes.
  • Laboratory studies : In laboratory studies, animals are exposed to a substance (often in very high doses) to see if it causes tumors or other health problems. Researchers could also expose normal cells on a lab plate to the substance to see if it causes the types of changes that are seen in cancer cells. It is not always clear whether the results of these types of studies will be applied to humans, but laboratory studies are a good way to find out if a substance can cause cancer.

In most cases no type of study provides sufficient evidence by itself. Therefore, researchers generally look at both human studies and laboratory studies when trying to find out if something causes cancer.

There is evidence from studies in both humans and laboratory animals that show that asbestos may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

When asbestos fibers in the air are inhaled, they may stick to mucus in the throat, trachea, bronchi (upper respiratory tract of the lungs) and may be removed by coughing or swallowing. But some fibers reach the end of the small airways in the lungs, or penetrate the outer lining of the lung and chest wall ( pleura ). These fibers may irritate the lung cells or the pleura, which eventually causes lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Studies in people

Cancer of the lungs

Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in many studies with workers exposed to asbestos. This increased risk has been seen with all forms of asbestos (there is no “safe” type of asbestos in relation to the risk of lung cancer). In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the risk of lung cancer. Most cases of lung cancer among this group of people occur at least 15 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

The risk of lung cancer is even greater in workers exposed to asbestos who also smoke than adding the risks of these exposures separately.

What is Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that in most cases affects the thin coatings of organs in the chest (pleura) and abdomen (peritoneum) regions.

Mesothelioma is closely linked with exposure to asbestos. All forms of asbestos have been associated with mesothelioma, although asbestos amphibole seems to cause this cancer to lower levels of exposure compared to chrysotile asbestos.

Most cases of mesothelioma are the result of exposure to asbestos at work. There is also an increased risk of mesothelioma among family members of workers and people living in neighborhoods near mines and asbestos factories. Although the risk of mesothelioma increases with the amount of asbestos exposure, there is no clear level of asbestos exposure that is safe in relation to the risk of mesothelioma.

Mesotheliomas usually take a long time to develop. The time between the initial exposure to asbestos and a diagnosis of mesothelioma is usually 30 years or more. Unfortunately, the risk of getting mesothelioma is not reduced after the initial exposure to asbestos. It seems that the risk is for life.

Unlike lung cancer, the risk of mesothelioma is not higher among smokers.

Other types of cancer

There are studies that also report a clear relationship between workplace exposure to asbestos with ovarian and laryngeal cancer . Its neccesary asbestos removal.

Some studies have also suggested that exposure to asbestos at work may be related to other types of cancer, including that of the pharynx (throat), stomach, colon and rectum. However, the relationship between these types of cancer and asbestos is not as determined as with the other types of cancer that are detailed in this content. For throat cancer, the relationship is stronger for the hypopharynx, the part of the throat closest to the larynx (sound box of the voice).

It is not clear exactly how asbestos could affect the risk of developing these cancers, but ingesting asbestos when swallowed could somehow contribute to the risk.

Laboratory studies

Tests using different rodent species, using several different methods of exposure, have confirmed that asbestos causes cancer in animals. All forms of asbestos have produced tumors in animals, but the size and shape of asbestos fibers influence the incidence of tumors. Smaller, straight fibers appear to be more dangerous, perhaps because they are more likely to reach the deeper parts of the lungs.

What is the opinion of the expert agencies on the subject?

Several national and international agencies study substances in the environment to determine if they can cause cancer. (A substance that causes cancer or encourages the growth of a tumor is said to be carcinogenic or a carcinogen.) The American Cancer Society consults with these organizations to evaluate risks that are based on evidence from animal laboratory studies, as well as studies with individuals.

Several expert agencies have evaluated the nature of asbestos as the cause of cancer based on animal and human tests, such as the examples mentioned above.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). One of your goals is to identify causes of cancer. The IARC classifies asbestos as a “human carcinogen,” based on its ability to cause mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx (voice box), and ovaries.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is made up of entities from various US government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) . The NTP has classified asbestos as a “known human carcinogen.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Maintains a database, the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which contains information on the effects on human health from exposure of various substances to the environment. The EPA classified asbestos as a human carcinogen.

(For more information on the rating systems used by these agencies, refer to Known and Probable Human Carcinogens ).

Does asbestos cause any other health problem?

The biggest health problem caused by exposure to asbestos, apart from cancer, is a lung disease called asbestosis . When a person breathes high levels of asbestos over time, some of the fibers are lodged deep in the lungs. Irritation caused by fibers can eventually cause scar tissue (fibrosis) to form in the lungs, which can make breathing difficult. The main symptoms of asbestosis are shortness of breath and chronic cough.

When asbestosis occurs, it is usually between 10 and 20 years after the initial exposure to it, and the disease may worsen over time. While it is possible that people do not present severe symptoms, other people may actually be harmed by breathing problems. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this problem.

It can also reach the outer lining of the lungs (pleura), where it can cause pleural plaques (areas of scar tissue in the pleura), as well as thickening of the pleura and pleural effusions (accumulation of fluid between the lungs and The pleura). All these conditions can make breathing difficult.

How can I avoid exposure to asbestos?

If there is a possibility of being exposed to asbestos in your workplace, for example, when renovating old buildings, appropriate protective equipment should be used, as well as follow the relevant work practices and safety procedures to work around asbestos removal .

If you have concerns about it exposure in your workplace, discuss this situation with your worker’s safety and health representative or directly with your employer. If necessary, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the federal agency responsible for regulating health and safety at most workplaces, can offer you More information or perform an inspection.

If you live in an old house, insulation or other materials may contain it. A person skilled in the art can inspect your home for asbestos and if it poses a risk of exposure. This may involve air testing to determine asbestos removal (as mentioned above, the fact that asbestos is present in a home does not necessarily mean that it needs to be removed, as long as the material is not damaged or Example when drilling or remodeling, the fibers will not be released into the air).

If asbestos removal is required in your home, employ the services of a qualified contractor to do this work and avoid contaminating your home even more so as not to cause any exposure to your family and workers.

What should I do if I have been exposed to asbestos?

If you have been exposed to it, it is important to determine the amount of your exposure. If you were exposed only briefly or at very low levels, the risk of this illness is likely to be low. However, if you were exposed to high levels or for prolonged periods of time, you may be at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, or any of the other diseases mentioned above. You can help protect your health in several ways:

  • If you smoke, it is extremely important that you stop. Evidence suggests that workers exposed to asbestos who stop smoking can significantly reduce their risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether you should undergo routine medical check-ups to see if there are any signs of asbestos-related illness. This is especially important if you are a smoker. You may want to go to a doctor who has experience with this type of illness. Some physicians recommend that people with high asbestos exposure undergo X-rays or CT scans, as well as periodic lung function tests. These tests can not detect the asbestos fibers themselves, but they can sometimes detect problems, including some cancers, that could be caused by the fibers. In fact, some groups of experts advise that exposure to asbestos alone is sufficient to consider having CT scans for lung cancer,
  • Tell your doctor if you begin to have symptoms that may be related to exposure to asbestos, such as shortness of breath, new or worsening cough, coughing up blood, chest pain or tightness, difficulty swallowing or loss of Unintentional weight. Check with your doctor immediately for any respiratory conditions you may have.
  • Ask your doctor about getting flu shots and pneumonia.

If you have already been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, there are places you can go to for financial help with treatment. Some people who have any of these conditions may be eligible for Medicare coverage.

There may also be people who also qualify for help, including payments for medical bills, under various workers’ compensation programs. This may include state workers ‘compensation programs, the Federal Workers’ Compensation Program, and the Longshore and Harbor Worker Compensation Program. Eligible veterans may receive medical care at a Veterans Administration (VA) affiliated health care facility for asbestos-related illness.