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Metal Lathers - Mesothelioma Risks

For every structure that has been built, chances are a metal lather was present to help build the framework. Metal lathers help connect metal pieces together, and construct and install these pieces for a number of building projects. They may also be responsible for repairing said structures if needed. It is a specialized field, because working with the metal lath material takes certain skills and training to use and be able to build correctly. For many years, especially between 1940 and 1980, metal lathers were put at significant risk for asbestos exposure. Virtually all metal lath was made with asbestos, because it was thought that the addition of asbestos made the material, and the resulting structure, much stronger. However, when a metal lather worked with the material, they were potentially exposed to the asbestos, a deadly mineral material that leads to the development of a rare cancer, mesothelioma.

When a material containing asbestos is disturbed, such as cutting up a metal lath to make it fit, asbestos fibers can be released—and millions of them in just a few seconds. These fibers can be easily breathed in or ingested without the person knowing, putting them in danger and starting the road to mesothelioma in an instant. Once inside the body, the asbestos fibers congregate within the mesothelium, a membrane lining the chest cavity and lungs. They stay there forever, unable to be broken down even by the body's complex proteins. They can build up and cause scar tissue, inflammation of the mesothelium, and cause fluid buildup within the tissue layers, creating breathing problems for the person affected.

What ultimately leads to mesothelioma, however, is the carcinogenic aspect of asbestos. The carcinogen, much like those found in cigarettes, can have a lasting effect on the cells and cell structure, leading to the development of a mesothelioma tumor. The latency period for mesothelioma, or the time it lies dormant before developing, can be as long as 30 or 40 years. For instance, someone who was heavily exposed to asbestos in 1970 may not find out they have mesothelioma until 2010. For many, the thought of asbestos exposure is an afterthought, and they don't connect their past exposure with their current problems.

Metal lathers are at a much higher risk for developing mesothelioma than the average person. Although asbestos is still remaining in more than 700,000 buildings around the United States, that exposure is not as harmful as the direct exposure experienced by those in occupational settings. If you are a former metal lather or know someone who is, the first step to take at this point is to see a doctor, preferably someone who specializes in mesothelioma and respiratory disease. The doctor will run a variety of tests to look for asbestos fiber buildup or a mesothelioma tumor. The sooner the mesothelioma is caught, the better the outcome will be.

When found in the later stages, mesothelioma is often a death sentence. It has spread throughout the body and can take a long time to respond to treatment. Typically, mesothelioma patients diagnosed in Stages III or IV do not live more than 2 or 3 years following diagnosis. Mesothelioma devastates families and has made a lasting impact on our society. Thanks to the gross negligence of asbestos companies, thousands of people each year are losing their lives.

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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