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Millwrights - Mesothelioma Risks

A millwright works with large, industrial machinery, including lathes, boilers, generators and turbines. The millwright may be called upon to build or install those machines, or to maintain or repair them. Many millwrights work on a contract basis, and travel from location to location performing their specialized duties. They work in all industries and sectors, including but not limited to power plants, construction sites, factories, shipyards and refineries.

Unfortunately, millwrights' varied and changeable duties also put them at an elevated risk for exposure to asbestos. Asbestos, a common mineral, is composed of long, thin fibers which can be extremely toxic to humans. Whenever asbestos is damaged or cut, these fibers not only disintegrate into microscopic particulate, but can then be breathed in or swallowed. Asbestos exposure has been linked to a number of respiratory diseases, particularly a rare cancer known as mesothelioma.

Asbestos is one of the most effective insulating materials known to man, however, which has led many companies and even the United States government to use it in a staggering variety of applications. It is used in insulating capacities, as components of building materials such as cement, and can even be woven into fabric. Gaskets, which are made to protect engines and other machinery from the effects of heat, is a common source of asbestos - and a product that is commonly worked on by millwrights.

Millwrights may also have used protective clothing or masks made from asbestos, to safeguard them from high temperatures and fire while performing their jobs. This makes it even more likely that these workers would have suffered prolonged and repeated exposure to this deadly carcinogen.

A person who has contracted mesothelioma can remain asymptomatic for up to 50 years following his or her exposure to asbestos. Sadly, the disease is often not diagnosed until it has advanced greatly and spread throughout the body. As with most cancers, the probability of successfully treating mesothelioma decreases over time, as the cancer metastasizes. In stage I, surgery may be an option, depending on the location of the tumor vis-a-vis the lungs, as well as on the patient's overall health. After stage I, however, the treatment may be limited to chemotherapy and radiation, which are often used in conjunction with one another. Another treatment known as thoracentesis can remove excess fluid from the space around the lungs, which can improve the patient's breathing and pain level.

Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma make it difficult to diagnose correctly, too, as they are frequently confused with the symptoms of other respiratory illnesses. These symptoms, including wheezing, breathing difficulties, coughing up blood or persistent coughing, chest pain and fatigue, are often associated with bronchitis, emphysema, influenza and COPD, which means that the tumor may not be located as quickly as otherwise. It's very important, therefore, to let your physician know if you may have been occupationally exposed to asbestos in the course of your work as a millwright. With that knowledge, it will be easier to diagnose a case of mesothelioma, even given its sometimes vague symptoms.

Retired and current millwrights should also make certain to have regular health screenings, and to stop smoking. Although smoking does not directly cause mesothelioma, it can weaken the lungs and increase the chances that the asbestos fibers penetrate the body's soft tissues and become malignant.

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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