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Cement Plant Workers - Mesothelioma Risks

Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer that is almost always caused by asbestos exposure. Around 90 percent of all cases of mesothelioma have been traced back to some type of asbestos. In the remaining 10 percent of cases, asbestos exposure is suspected, but unconfirmed. This makes asbestos fibers the leading cause of the deadly disease.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium - the thin lining that surrounds the lungs, heart, and abdominal cavity. When asbestos fibers are suspended in the air, they can easily be inhaled or swallowed. When this happens, they can lodge themselves in the deepest parts of the lungs and in the mesothelium of the pleura - the body cavity that sits between the lungs and the ribcage. There, the asbestos fibers are thought to mutate the DNA of normal mesothelial cells, and to turn them into cancerous mesothelioma cells. These malignant cells grow rapidly and without order. They form a deadly tumor which can spread to other organs and interfere with their vital functions.

Asbestos was used as a binder in siding cement up until the early 1970s. Adding up to 10 percent asbestos to cement created a lightweight, durable material that could be used for many purposes. It could be molded, cast, and extruded to create roofing tiles and siding shingles. Normal cement is too brittle when it becomes too thin, so it could not be used for siding. Asbestos cement, however, allowed for the creation of thinner pieces that were better suited for this purpose.

Unfortunately, this means that anyone who came into contact with this type of cement at any point during its creation and use was probably exposed to some amount of asbestos. This includes cement plant workers. In fact, these workers are most likely at a higher risk than the workers that would use the plant's products, because they might have been involved in the mixing process. This would have exposed them to very high levels of asbestos. Even low levels of asbestos exposure have been shown to cause mesothelioma, so even the smallest amount of asbestos should be avoided.

Also, despite its increased durability, asbestos cement was still somewhat brittle. Most asbestos that remains undisturbed poses no health risk. However, if cement is being moved back and forth by workers at the plant, it is bound to release some dust. This dust will most likely be contaminated with asbestos, and may expose workers to the deadly fiber.

If you ever worked in a cement plant that you believe used asbestos with some of its products, be sure to let your doctor know. Depending on whether or not you were exposed to asbestos, you may be at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. If so, your doctor should keep a close eye on the health of your lungs. Even the slightest symptom of lung disease should be taken seriously, and you should undergo rigorous testing for mesothelioma. As with any cancer, early detection is critical to a good prognosis.

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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