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Aeronautical Engineers - Mesothelioma Risks

Many occupations still exist that put people at risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that has many potential uses. It is extremely durable, has a high resistance to heat and electricity, and is very difficult to degrade with acids and other corrosive chemicals. It was therefore used heavily in construction and for industrial purposes. Many jobs involving working around high temperatures or voltages used asbestos as insulation and protection for workers.

Asbestos has since been found to have severely detrimental effects on human health. Mesothelioma is the deadliest health effect of asbestos exposure. It is a very rare cancer that affects the thin tissue that lines the heart, lungs, and abdominal cavity. Microscopic asbestos fibers in the air are inhaled and lodge themselves deep in the lungs. From there, they make their way to the thin tissue that surrounds the lungs. This thin tissue, known as the mesothelium, becomes inflamed by asbestos fibers. The fibers mutate the otherwise normal cells, and cancer develops. A deadly tumor forms that can invade essential organs and interfere with their functioning.

The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma. With this disease, the mesothelium of the pleura - the body cavity found between the lungs and the ribcage - becomes cancerous. The pleura begins to swell and fill with fluid. Painful pressure is put on the lungs, making it very difficult to breath and lowering lung capacity. The first symptoms of mesothelioma are therefore similar to other lung diseases - coughing, pain in the lower back and chest, and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms appear, the cancer has already progressed to a fatal stage, and it is only a matter of time until it takes the life of its host.

Aeronautical engineers are among the types of workers that may be exposed to asbestos. Although asbestos has been banned for certain uses, it is not outlawed entirely, and many engineers can order its use on aircraft. In fact, asbestos is very well suited for use in planes, helicopters, and even spaceships. It is very lightweight, fire-resistant, and one of the best insulators known. It can therefore be used around engines, fuel tanks, electrical outlets, and lighting sockets. It can be a component of heat shielding tiles used to protect sensitive equipment from superheated exhaust fumes. It can also be used in friction-bearing parts, such as brake pads.

Aeronautical engineers should know that the presence of asbestos on any moving object is a risk. Asbestos fibers only become a problem when they become airborne, so if the asbestos was being used in stationary parts, it would not be as dangerous. However, the movement, stresses, and repairs that aircraft are constantly undergoing make it very likely that the asbestos will be released into the atmosphere.

If you are an aeronautical engineer involved in the use or repair of asbestos parts in aircraft, be sure that you are properly protected at all times. If you are in charge of a project that requires workers, besides yourself, to work with and around asbestos-containing materials, it is your duty to ensure that these workers are fully informed of and protected from the dangers.

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Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Thu November 14, 2013