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Tile Setters - Mesothelioma Risks

While tile setters no longer create the beautiful mosaics of the past, they still play an important role in building homes, churches, and larger buildings. And though this work is still done, it's become a rarity, leading most tile setters to develop specialties laying flooring and wall tiles. With asbestos, these tiles were crucial to fireproofing and insulating buildings of the twentieth century. However, for construction workers and those who actually did the tile setting, asbestos proved to be a dangerous building material.

Asbestos, once seen as a wonder-material for its strength, durability, and resistance to heat, fire, and electricity, was used as in building materials, insulation, and thousands of household products, from aprons to toasters. It was also used in fireproof blankets, gaskets, and spray-on fireproofing materials. In factories, it was used to prevent machines from overheating, and shipbuilders - including the U.S. Navy - used it to insulate pipes and prevent on-board fires.

As asbestos began to grow in popularity, more and more workers and miners began to complain of respiratory illnesses and breathing difficulties. Studies by the largest asbestos-producing corporations found a link between asbestos and numerous pleural diseases, including the rare but aggressive cancer mesothelioma. However, instead of increasing safety measures to account for the hazards to the workers, they kept the information to themselves.

By the 1970s, however, the general public became aware of the connections, and thousands of lawsuits were filed charging negligence on the behalf of employers. Millions of lawsuits have since been filed. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency enacted the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out rule, making it illegal to use asbestos. This rule was overturned in 1991, allowing manufacturers to continue using the mineral, this time in trace amounts that are heavily regulated.

While asbestos is not generally dangerous in buildings, it becomes respirable when disrupted, as it is during building, repair work, and even removal. Once breathed in, the microscopic particles, which can be long and needle-like or curly in shape, become lodged in the mesothelium, a protective membrane lining the chest cavity that enables breathing by allowing the lungs to expand and contract. With the development of mesothelioma, breathing becomes more difficult. The chest cavity often fills with fluid and other complications can arise.

With a long latency period and symptoms similar to other respiratory diseases, doctors often have trouble diagnosing mesothelioma until it has advanced to latter stages of development. The symptoms, which can take years or even decades to appear, often include fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, and chest pain. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, though doctors are able to offer palliative care to provide comfort to patients and relieve painful symptoms. Unfortunately, most patients are expected to live only 12 to 18 months after diagnosis is made. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common methods of treatment available, often given in conjunction with one another or individually, given the health conditions of the patient. As scientists learn more about the elusive disease, they are offering alternative treatments to better combat cancerous growths.

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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