Asbestos
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Teachers - Mesothelioma Risks

When news about the dangers of asbestos first broke in the 1970s, there was a frenzy to stop using the material as soon as possible. Construction jobs were halted while builders found a replacement material. Still, hundreds of thousands of buildings still remained with the harmful material packed inside. Proper asbestos removal, called asbestos abatement, is expensive and time consuming, and is the reason why 700,000 buildings and homes around the United States still contain asbestos to this day. Some of the buildings often associated with asbestos are schools; while the asbestos has put children at risk, those at the most risk in schools are the teachers. Asbestos is a known cause of the rare and aggressive cancer mesothelioma, and many teachers have developed this deadly disease from working in schools with asbestos.

The danger to teachers lies in the amount of time they spend at the school. While most children and teens only spend a few years in the building, many teachers will remain employed at one school for decades. Prolonged exposure to asbestos puts them at an increased risk for mesothelioma. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or disrupted, asbestos fibers can be released. They can also be released when the materials, such as insulation where it was commonly used in schools, gets older and begins to disintegrate. When these fibers are taken in, they become trapped in the body, and cannot be expelled or broken down, even after years and years.

Asbestos is a carcinogen, which is a toxic substance that causes cancer. Carcinogens are also present in cigarettes and other products and substances. It is this carcinogen factor that can lead certain people to develop mesothelioma. Lifestyle is a major part of the development as well; people who smoke and/or eat an unhealthy diet may be even more prone to mesothelioma when combined with asbestos in the body. A mesothelioma tumor develops in the mesothelium, and can spread to other areas of the body. After the lungs, mesothelioma in the abdominal cavity and heart are where the cancer can also be found.

Mesothelioma can take decades to develop, so teachers who worked in schools with a high asbestos rate in the 60s and 70s may just be starting to feel the effects now. And because the material is still present in many schools, even teachers today may be prone to it 20 or 30 years down the road. Laws are in place that say schools containing asbestos must undergo inspections to make sure the material is not emitting fibers, but many schools do not do these inspections because they simply can't afford it. Inner-city schools may be especially prone, so teachers should be aware of the risks and ask their physician what more can be done.

Teachers have sacrificed their lives in more ways than one for the children of the United States. If you are a former teacher who may have had prolonged asbestos exposure, speak with your doctor right away. Early detection of mesothelioma is the key to survival, and will make a difference in your treatment and your overall future.

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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