Veterans Assistance

Drill Press Operators - Mesothelioma Risks

During construction or manufacturing, drill presses are often used for a variety of tasks. The drill press operators who controlled them were in charge of fabricating metal and producing goods according to the specifications of a drawing, such as a tool or a part needed for whatever activity was going on at the time. Much of the metal and other materials that these drill press operators worked with contained asbestos, a dangerous mineral that was used throughout the same industries drill pressing took place. The asbestos was added to the paint that might be on the metal, and even during the process of making the metal itself. It was considered a "miracle mineral" by many industries. It added some great qualities to metal, such as rust prevention and insulation of heat and noise, and was fire resistant.

Anytime a drill press operator made a hole or worked with the metal in some way, there was potential for asbestos fibers to be released. While asbestos is not harmful when stable, it becomes much more dangerous when disturbed or disrupted, which is exactly what happens when used on a drill press. Asbestos fibers get into the air, and can be breathed in easily once they're out in the open. When they are inhaled, they stick to the inner lining of the lung and chest cavity, called the mesothelium. Once there, they become embedded, and each new exposure can add multiple fibers. Over time, these fibers do a lot of damage to the mesothelium: tissue scarring, inflammation, and fluid buildup are all common side effects of asbestos fibers' presence. Asbestos is also a carcinogen, so it has toxic effects on the body as well, and is what leads to the development of the mesothelioma tumor.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, only affecting 3,000 people a year, compared to the more than 100,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer or leukemia. Although researchers and doctors are constantly studying mesothelioma's causes and effects, there is still much to learn about it. Treatment options for mesothelioma vary from the traditional—chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery—to the more experimental: immunotherapy, gene therapy, acupuncture and massage. Mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until stages III and IV, due to a long latency period. The cancer can take years to fully develop and become noticeable, with the symptoms not even beginning or becoming noticeable until these stages. By then, it is sometimes too late for treatments to fully make an impact. The survival rate of mesothelioma is low; most mesothelioma patients do not make it beyond three years following diagnosis, and only 10 percent live five years or more.

Mesothelioma has affected thousands more than just the people who are diagnosed with it. Their families and loved ones are also deeply affected by the disease and the loss of their family member. The saddest part of mesothelioma is that it could have easily been prevented, if only the asbestos manufacturers had been responsible and released the information on its risks and harms long before they did. Instead, they are responsible for thousands of mesothelioma-related deaths, and have put millions of people at risk. Drill press operators are advised to visit a doctor regularly to have exams done testing for mesothelioma development, or the development of another asbestos-related 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