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Maintenance Workers - Mesothelioma Risks

When asbestos was wildly popular - from the early 1900s all the way to 1980 - it was used for almost every purpose imaginable. Clothing, metal, insulation, and hair dryers were all popular products containing asbestos fibers. Some companies felt pressure from the asbestos companies to add the material in, after being persuaded over the safety measures it could provide.

Asbestos was also used in many buildings, especially in manufacturing where high heat and a high risk of fire were often present. Also present: maintenance workers. Every building needs to be cleaned and maintained, and maintenance workers are the people who do that for us. However, they were often on the receiving end of asbestos exposure, which has put thousands of maintenance workers at risk for developing mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos.

Maintenance workers could have been exposed to asbestos in a number of ways. As the material disintegrates, it can look just like dust. If a maintenance worker mistakes asbestos particles for dust, just think of all the fibers that would swirl in the area as he or she dusted or swept it up. Routine maintenance on pipes, walls and almost anything else can release asbestos fibers as well. Even cleaning chemicals contained asbestos at one point. People working around industrial chemicals had the second-highest rate of risk for mesothelioma, and those in the construction industry were third.

When the fibers become airborne, they can easily be breathed in or ingested unknowingly. Then, they become embedded in the mesothelium, the membrane that lines the lungs and the chest cavity. The asbestos fibers can do great damage to the mesothelium, eventually leading to mesothelioma cancer. The cancer is caused by a carcinogen in asbestos; carcinogens are toxic substances that are the prime cause of many cancers, especially lung cancers. Treatment for mesothelioma extends from the traditional—chemotherapy, radiation, surgery—to the experimental and alternative: gene therapy, TENS therapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga.

For patients in the latest stages of mesothelioma, they may opt for the latter treatments more for pain management rather than a medical solution. Often in Stages III or IV, treatments are not as effective, and the patient can actually experience more pain with fewer results. Even when mesothelioma treatment is possible, it gets expensive very quickly, sometimes costing up to $800,000 or more for oxygen, drugs, and other forms of treatment. Many people opt to let the cancer run its course; very few mesothelioma patients live beyond two or three years after diagnosis.

Even today maintenance workers are at risk for asbestos exposure. There are more than 700,000 buildings in the United States, and many more around the world, that have not undergone special asbestos abatement (removal). Instead it is sitting there, putting millions of people at risk for mesothelioma. The asbestos companies who encouraged the use of their product knew its dangers but did not let on about it because they wanted to make money—a choice that has come back to haunt them in the form of multi-million dollar lawsuits. Over half a million asbestos and mesothelioma injury claims have been filed since the 1980s, when the asbestos scare first began. You can choose to contact a lawyer to fight to receive compensation as well.

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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