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Road Machine Operators - Mesothelioma Risks

Road construction often gets a bad reputation because it can be so inconvenient to the thousands of people who use the road daily. However, road construction and repair is necessary for cities to grow and for the roads to stay in working order. In places where there is a smaller population, there may be dirt or gravel roads to cut down on costs and repair. The people who build and repair these roads are actually doing a great service to us. Unfortunately, they are often harmed in the process. Road machine operators especially may be at risk for asbestos exposure, and a the rare cancer mesothelioma.

Asbestos used to be used in gravel and also in some of the machines used by the operators. Asbestos fibers are easily released when the material they're contained in is disturbed; if a road machine operator used his machine over a gravel road, tens of millions of asbestos fibers could be released. The fibers are small enough to go unnoticed and get mixed in with the dust and dirt that is also kicked up during these processes. They become respirable, and can still be inhaled by anyone close by.

When asbestos fibers are breathed in or swallowed, they go into our body but rarely leave. Instead, they become trapped, lodged in the lungs, stomach, and specifically the mesothelium, a membrane that lines the lungs and chest cavity, as well as the abdominal cavity and the heart. These fibers build up over time, each exposure bringing more in. They cause extensive damage - the scarring of sensitive tissues being especially harmful - and can lead to respiratory and breathing problems. Asbestos is also considered a carcinogen, which means it can lead to cancer. While not every person who is exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma, they are still at risk for it and other asbestos-related diseases.

Mesothelioma develops slowly and may not appear until decades following exposure. Road machine operators who were unknowingly exposed may overlook their past exposure in considering current health problems, and their doctors can overlook it as well. Mesothelioma can present symptoms similar to the flu, pneumonia, or just signs of aging. It often is left untreated and undiscovered for years, which is why so many people who are diagnosed are in the highest stages of the cancer. In stages III and IV, the mesothelioma has developed so much that the treatments may be ineffective. Typically, mesothelioma patients only have life expectancies of 2 or 3 years from the point of diagnosis.

In 2005, California finally decided to cover its gravel roads with tar to prevent asbestos fibers from being released every time a car passed through. Many other states are also realizing this problem and are just now beginning to do something about it. Even though asbestos has been banned since the 1980s, there are still many places where it can be found, especially in an occupational setting. Road machine operators face a great risk for this cancer, and should visit a doctor regularly to undergo screenings and tests for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, and will continue to do so in the future. By taking early action, mesothelioma deaths can be lessened and prevented.


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