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Industrial Engineers - Mesothelioma Risks

In addition to the architects and draftsmen who help design the buildings we live and work in, industrial engineers are also crucial to the building process. Industrial engineers are often present on a job site during construction, helping to oversee the building and advising on any problems that may occur. They may also go to buildings and homes to find ways to make the building more efficient. In any case, both of these scenarios put industrial engineers at risk for exposure to asbestos. Between World War II and 1980 (the latter being when the material was finally banned), asbestos could be found in almost every building in the United States. For industrial engineers, this exposure led to the development of the rare and aggressive cancer mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers can be found in many places: cement, insulation, pipes, metal and even household objects like hairdryers. When these materials are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers can be released into the air, and anyone near them can quickly inhale or ingest them without even being aware to the harm they are inflicting on their body. Once inside the body, these fibers can do a lot of damage; they quickly become embedded in the membrane lining of the chest cavity, known as the mesothelium. Over time, the fibers cause inflammation and irritation, even permanently scarring the tissue. Because asbestos is a known carcinogen, it has toxic effects as well, ultimately leading to mesothelioma. The mesothelioma tumor usually starts in the lung mesothelium, and can spread to the abdominal cavity and even the lining of the heart.

Mesothelioma can take years to develop, and the risk increases in correlation to the amount and length of exposure. Industrial engineers who have been around asbestos for years may have asbestos fibers building up for decades, but may not experience symptoms for 20 or 30 years after that. People can go for years with symptoms of mesothelioma and not even know it, mistaking the symptoms for something more common, like a cold or influenza. Even a doctor can overlook mesothelioma, especially without the vital information regarding the amount of asbestos exposure. Left untreated, mesothelioma can progress to the most advanced stages, and patients won't be diagnosed until it is far too late. The life expectancy for most patients is no longer than two or three years due to this fact. Although courses of treatment are available, they are often not strong enough to kill the cancer if it has moved throughout the entire body.

Mesothelioma affects more than 3,000 people each year, with that number expected to be on the rise in the next few years. It is important to be aware of the symptoms in case something does arise. Symptoms of mesothelioma may include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Chest pains and pressure

Although the damage has already been done, there are some ways people can try to reduce their risk for mesothelioma development. Smoking, in addition to asbestos presence, is especially dangerous. Smokers who have had known asbestos exposure are advised to quit as soon as possible. Certain dietary restrictions can also be taken, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and eliminating meat. Although it is not a cure, the risk of mesothelioma can be reduced by following these suggestions.

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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