Occupational Hazards: The Industries Most Affected by Mesothelioma

by | Jul 24, 2023 | Health Featured

Which Industries Have Been Most Affected by Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a frustrating and deadly disease that impacts thousands of people every year. And the more we learn about the causal factors of the disease and its relationship with asbestos, the more it becomes apparent that individuals within certain industries are most likely to be affected by it.

What is Mesothelioma?

Every year, there are 2,500 to 3,000 new cases of diagnosed mesothelioma in the United States. Roughly 77 percent of mesothelioma cases appear in men, with Caucasians accounting for 93 percent of all cases.

“​​Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos,” MesotheliomaGuide.com explains. “It forms when sharp, loose asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining of either the lungs or abdomen. These fibers irritate tissue, which becomes diseased. Most patients live for around one year after diagnosis, but treatment can prolong survival.”

There are two main types of mesothelioma: pleural (accounting for 80 percent of cases) and peritoneal (making up the other 20 percent). Common symptoms include chest pain, abdominal pain, pleural effusions, difficulty breathing, night sweats, and weight loss.

The Role of Asbestos in Different Industries

Asbestos is a term used for six naturally occurring silicate minerals, all of which are composed of long and thin fibrous crystals. Due to its unique properties – heat resistance, electrical resistance, sound absorption, and high tensile strength – asbestos has been utilized in various capacities across different industries, particularly construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing.

If you’re looking purely at the material, asbestos is an ideal choice for a variety of industrial applications. In addition to the properties highlighted above, it’s cheap and easy to work with. The problem is that it’s also deadly when inhaled. As the fibers become embedded into the lining of lungs, heart, or abdomen, they cause inflammation.

While it might not be apparent for 20 to 50 years, the inflammation and scarring eventually reach a point of no return.

Here are some of the industries where workers are most likely to be impacted:

  1. Construction

Asbestos was commonly used in construction of residential and commercial buildings up until the late 20th century. In buildings built before 1978, asbestos is often present in insulation, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, roofing, plaster, siding, and more. Those who wrecked as carpenters, electricians, and plumbers during this time are most likely to have had some level of exposure. Plus, anyone who works on buildings built during this time period today, without proper asbestos protection, faces a heightened risk of developing mesothelioma in the future.

  1. Shipbuilding

Asbestos was commonly used in the shipbuilding industry (because of its fire-resistant properties). It was frequently used in steam pipes, boilers, and hot water pipes. You would also find it in materials such as packing and gaskets.

Because of their occupation, navy personnel also faced higher risk, particularly those who spent lots of time in boiler and engine rooms.

  1. Automotive

Many people don’t realize this, but asbestos was frequently used in the automotive industry because of its heat-resistance and long-term durability. In older cars, it was commonly present in gaskets, clutches, brake pads, and the insulation used for car hoods. Vehicles manufactured prior to 1990 often have the presence of asbestos in the original materials.

  1. Manufacturing

As you might anticipate, manufacturing industries, particularly those involved in the production of asbestos-containing materials, also faced a high risk of asbestos exposure. This includes workers involved in manufacturing insulation materials, tiles, cement products, and automotive parts.

Current Regulations and Safety Measures

Over the past few decades, many countries have introduced regulations to control or ban the use of asbestos. For instance, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have set specific standards and regulations to limit workers’ exposure to asbestos. Despite this, asbestos is not completely banned in the U.S. and can still be found in certain products and older buildings and infrastructures.

In addition, guidelines are in place for the safe removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. These tasks should be carried out by trained professionals, using proper safety equipment and following strict procedures to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air.

What to Do if You’ve Been Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

If you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma or are likely to have experienced past exposure to asbestos, it’s important that you work alongside healthcare providers and mesothelioma lawyers to determine whether or not you’re able to file a lawsuit or join one of the many class action lawsuits that exist. Most of all, make sure you take care of yourself!

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