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Industrial Workers - Mesothelioma Risks

Many of the products we have today would not be here if it weren't for industrial workers. In factories across the country, these people do things that many of us overlook—manufacturing the products and objects we use everyday. In addition, the manufacturing industry has had a stigma for being a dangerous working environment and, unfortunately, it is true—in more ways than one. While these people are working around large, dangerous machines or with toxic chemicals, they may also have been exposed to the harmful material asbestos, which can lead to the development of a rare cancer known as mesothelioma.

Manufacturing anything usually requires a certain amount of heat and pressure. Asbestos was great for the manufacturing industry because it was heat resistant and could withstand large amounts of pressure. The asbestos could be found in the machine parts, the fumes or dust they produced, or in the tools required to do the job. Industrial workers often worked long hours, and many worked at the same facility for years at a time, meaning they were exposed to asbestos constantly. The risk of mesothelioma development increases with length of exposure, and constant exposure increases the risk significantly. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, tiny fibers can be released in the air. If someone is close enough—and for industrial workers, they were often very close—the fibers can be easily ingested or inhaled just by breathing.

Although asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, it is not natural to the human body. They cannot be broken down; instead, they become lodged in the membrane and tissue lining surrounding the lungs and mesothelium. Asbestos fibers can also become stuck in the mesothelium of the abdomen and the heart. The fibers cause irritation, inflammation and scarring. They can also cause the tissues and membranes to retain fluids, which build up over time and impair breathing and other necessary functions. Asbestos is a carcinogen, and it is this factor that affects the development of cancer the most. The tumor, which likely starts in the mesothelium of the lungs, can unknowingly develop over decades, but spread quickly after detection. It is for this reason that mesothelioma has become such a deadly—and relatively silent—form of cancer.

More than 8 million Americans have been exposed to asbestos, which means 8 million are at risk for mesothelioma. Of the 10,000 cases of mesothelioma reported each year, more than one third of those occur in the United States alone. Industrial workers are one of the largest groups of people at risk for asbestos exposure and subsequent mesothelioma. There are some important steps to take regarding mesothelioma if you have known occupational exposure.

First, see a doctor regularly. Your doctor can only test and look for mesothelioma if he or she knows that heavy asbestos exposure has occurred. Otherwise, even a doctor can overlook the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma and mistake them for something less serious. Early detection is key when it comes to mesothelioma, or cancer of any kind, for that matter. It means more effective treatment and better life expectancy. Second, stop smoking if you currently do so, and eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. Although it has not been fully proven, a diet rich in nutrients can help stave off the development of mesothelioma.

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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