Survivors Book

Mechanical Engineers - Mesothelioma Risks

Although the asbestos cancer mesothelioma does not discriminate, there are some occupations that put workers at higher risk than others. One of these occupations is mechanical engineering.

Mechanical engineers work with electrical circuits, thermodynamic systems and other subsystems, many of which require insulation. Insulation has been traditionally composed of asbestos, due to that mineral's remarkable properties of heat- and fireproofing, tensile strength, and flexibility. Additionally, mechanical engineers frequently work on construction sites, in factories and at other locations that may put them into contact with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

Asbestos has been incorporated into a wide array of consumer and industrial goods, including gaskets, heat-resistant cloth, insulation, pipe covering, machine parts, joint compound. Anyplace where electrical circuitry is found has a high likelihood of having asbestos insulation around the wiring, and asbestos is also found in the very walls, ceilings and floors of factories and other buildings.

Mechanical engineers, whose jobs may take them to a variety of locations throughout their career or even throughout their workday, may therefore be exposed to asbestos in a number of places and ways. That's why it's especially important for these workers to learn about the symptoms of mesothelioma, and to inform their physician immediately if they experience any of the symptoms.

Mesothelioma is a rare, but very aggressive, cancer that affects the lining of the chest cavity called the mesothelium. Mesothelioma can also metastasize to the lungs, lymph nodes and other areas of the body. This cancer occurs when the microscopic fibers that make up asbestos materials become airborne and are breathed in, thereafter lodging themselves in the lungs and mesothelium or, less commonly, in the pericardial (heart) mesothelium or peritoneal (stomach) mesothelium.

One of the most difficult aspect of diagnosing and treating mesothelioma is that the disease has an extremely long latency period; anywhere from 10 to 50 years can elapse between the time when the individual is first exposed to asbestos and the time when he or she is diagnosed with mesothelioma. Although an occasional case of mesothelioma is diagnosed early enough (typically in Stage I) to make surgery feasible, most cases are already in stage III or stage IV by the time they are diagnosed. This makes treatment a challenge.

Besides surgery, there are other options for alleviating the pain and breathing difficulties associated with mesothelioma. Traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may provide relief for patients, although late-stage patients often opt not to have such treatments because of their debilitating side effects. A treatment which is specific to lung-disease patients, called thoracentesis, may help mesothelioma patients breathe more easily. Thoracentesis removes some of the excess fluid from the space between the lungs and the inner chest wall. Many patients also find that they can find pain relief and relaxation through the use of alternative treatments, like massage therapy, acupuncture, TENS therapy, nutritional supplements, and aromatherapy.

There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, and the prognosis is grim. Most people who are diagnosed with this cancer, which is all too often the legacy of a lifetime of hard work, survive fewer than two years with mesothelioma.


Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Sun July 26, 2020