Survivors Book

Asbestos Plant Workers - Mesothelioma Risks

Of all the occupations at risk for asbestos exposure, there is no doubt that an asbestos plant employee is at the highest of them all. When asbestos production was at its highest, due to increasing demand and popularity of the mineral, tons of asbestos was produced daily. Before its dangers were known, safety gear and protection was not provided, leaving workers to breathe in large amounts of the harmful dust, asbestos and other toxins every day. Exposure to asbestos, especially at such high amounts, puts people at risk for developing a deadly cancer called mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer that specifically affects the lining of the lungs, called the mesothelium. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they become lodged in this lining. Over time, they can build up significantly, causing scar tissue to form and having a large impact on the lungs and breathing functions. The mesothelium becomes inflamed, causing great pain to the person afflicted. Over time, these fibers can cause a malignant mesothelioma tumor to form throughout the lining and tissues and onto the lung itself. The cancer cells can spread throughout the body, affecting organs, tissues and lining in the abdominal cavity, and the heart.

When the dangers of asbestos were being researched in the 1970s, a small study was conducted among asbestos plant workers. It was trying to determine whether or not the expected rate of lung cancer development across the entire population would match with asbestos plant workers, actually trying to disprove the harm. Instead, the study found that these workers were at a much greater chance of developing lung cancer than the rest of the population. Women were especially affected, with their chance of obtaining the disease being seven times the expected rate.

It is advised that former asbestos plant workers who have not yet developed mesothelioma have regular visits with their doctor to monitor their health and test for mesothelioma development. It is extremely important to catch the cancer in its early stages, as treatments will be more effective and the patient can have a better life expectancy. The survival rate for those who are diagnosed in the later stages is grim; only 10 percent of patients live beyond five years after diagnosis, and traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are usually not as effective.

Additionally, people who have been heavily exposed to asbestos but have not yet developed mesothelioma are also advised to not smoke, because smoking can increase the risk of mesothelioma developing, as well as other forms of lung cancer. They should also maintain a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and other antioxidants to help stave off the cancer. It is also important to stay educated about the symptoms and signs of mesothelioma in case something does arise, so it will be caught and treated before it develops any further.

Although mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year, there is still very little known about it by the general public. If more people were informed and aware of the risks associated with asbestos, many more cases would be reported. Sadly, some people live with mesothelioma for years and never know, only being diagnosed postmortem. If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos, educate yourself and others about this deadly disease.


Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

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

Last Edited: Sun July 26, 2020