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Laggers - Mesothelioma Risks

In the United Kingdom, insulators are referred to as laggers. They perform the same duties as their American counterparts, installing insulation. Insulation comes in many forms, from foam padding placed around pipes to spray-on insulation and prefabricated fiber boards. The work is dangerous, requiring them to work on the job-site instead of in a factory to insulate boilers, pipes, and hot water heaters. The most dangerous part of the work, however, doesn't come from the work conditions or the job-sites; it comes from the insulation itself. That's because most insulation in the twentieth century contained asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was revered for its strength, durability, and resistance to heat and fire.

Originally thought a miracle material, asbestos quickly showed its versatility in a range of uses, being employed in building materials, fireproofing equipment, and thousands of household goods. However, as more workers complained of breathing difficulties and chest ailments, it became clear that asbestos was hazardous. However, many corporations and even the government kept their findings concealed for most of the century. By the 1970s, however, the information had trickled to the public, and lawsuits began to reveal the scope of what was actually known. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency enacted the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out rule, which effectively ended the use of asbestos in the United States. However, it was overturned in 1991 because it was too restrictive. Today, asbestos is still legal, though its use is highly regulated.

The friable substance is safe when it's already installed and stable. However, when disturbed - during installation, renovation and repairs, or even removal - the microscopic fibers may be inhaled, leading to a number of asbestos diseases, including the cancer mesothelioma. When breathed in, the fibers become lodged in the protective lining of the chest cavity called the mesothelium. This is a thin membrane that allows the lungs to easily expand and collapse, enabling breathing. When this occurs, malignant cells replace healthy ones, spreading and affecting the respiratory system. Symptoms often include difficulty breathing, chest pains, coughing up blood, and fatigue.

While there is no cure yet for mesothelioma, doctors can perform palliative treatments to comfort patients and relieve painful symptoms of the disease. Because mesothelioma has a long latency period - symptoms may take years or even decades to become apparent - diagnosis is typically made only when the disease has reached advanced stages. At this point, the growth is usually too large to be removed in its entirety. Surgery is the most effective method, but due to the location of the tumor relative to the lungs, and the general health of the patient, it is a difficult operation which is unavailable to many patients. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also common methods of treatment, used either individually or in conjunction with one another. These use drugs and powerful x-rays, respectively, to target cancer cells and stop the spread of the growth. Alternative treatments are also being developed as doctors and researchers learn more about this elusive disease.

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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