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Machine Operatives - Mesothelioma Risks

A "machine operative" is the general term or title given to anyone who operates machinery, large or small. These may be large industrial machines, or small hand-held devices. Between 1940 and 1980, machine operatives were exposed to a harmful material called asbestos. Today, asbestos is a common word, often viewed with disdain. During this 40-year period, however, asbestos was considered a great material, especially for the manufacturing industry, where many machine operatives worked. It was used for a variety of purposes, from making things fire- and heat-resistant while also making them strong, durable and flexible. At the same time, it was also harming everyone that came in contact with it. Not only is asbestos harmful, it can lead to the development of a deadly cancer—mesothelioma.

As the operatives fixed the large machines, they were potentially releasing harmful asbestos into the air. Whenever an object or material containing asbestos is disturbed, the fibers can be released. This is why, when asbestos is being removed from buildings, it needs to be done in a certain way—a wrong move can have serious consequences. The asbestos from these machines came off like dust, so many people thought nothing of it. However, when these fibers were breathed in, as they often were by people in close range, the fibers became stuck and lodged in their body. Since they could not be broken down, the fibers stayed in the lining of the chest cavity, the mesothelium. As they built up over time, the fibers caused irritation, inflammation, forming of scar tissue, and many other negative effects.

Because asbestos is a carcinogen, it also has toxic effects on the body. This is what researchers believe ultimately causes mesothelioma. While not every person who is exposed to asbestos will develop the cancer, they are at a much greater risk for it and many other asbestos related diseases. Mesothelioma can spread throughout the body, to the abdomen, heart and lymph nodes. It can take years to develop after initial exposure, and is made worse after every exposure. Many people are not diagnosed with mesothelioma until decades following exposure. They may have been developing it for years without even knowing. Once a mesothelioma tumor has developed, it can spread very quickly, making it one of the most dangerous and deadly cancers.

Treatment for mesothelioma typically involves traditional methods like chemotherapy and radiation, and surgery if the doctor feels it can be done. However, these treatments can prove ineffective, especially in the later stages of mesothelioma when it has infiltrated all parts of the body. In order to prevent this from happening, people with known asbestos exposure are encouraged to become educated about the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma. Catching it early on can make a big difference in treatment and prognosis. Symptoms of mesothelioma may include:

  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fluid buildup in the chest or abdomen
  • Chest pains

Seeing a doctor regularly is also encouraged in order to monitor one's health and keep an eye on the asbestos or mesothelioma development. In doing this, mesothelioma can have a better success rate, better treatment options, and a better outlook for patients.

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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