Veterans Assistance

Weavers - Mesothelioma Risks

Asbestos has long been known to be a hazardous material. When it was used prior to the 1980s, many people thought of it as a miracle material—and nothing more. However, asbestos has put more than eight million people at risk through occupational exposure alone. One of the occupations most affected is weaving and weavers. Although the major uses of asbestos were for construction and building, it was also used for textiles and weaving. It's properties of fire and heat resistance helped make the fabrics safer. At the same time, however, it was also doing a lot of harm to the people who made the textiles and fabrics. Asbestos is the cause of a rare cancer called mesothelioma. It has killed tens of thousands of people in the United States, and continues to take more lives each and every year.

Asbestos was easily weaved in with textiles due to its flexibility—a rare trait from a mineral that actually comes from a rock. Asbestos was also used in machines in textile mills, and may have exposed weavers in that way as well. As the mineral was used and handled more often, these fibers break down into smaller and smaller pieces, but never disappear completely. Instead, they go into the air, where they can mix in with dust and be breathed in by anyone in the surrounding area—often the weavers working on the fabrics and other machines. Asbestos fibers are very harmful; they lodge themselves in the body, specifically into the mesothelium, the sensitive membrane lining the chest cavity, lungs and internal organs. They build up over time, so with constant exposure over a number of years, they can really do some damage. Scar tissue and inflammation can develop without the person even knowing. Mesothelioma is the worst outcome, and it too can develop without any attention paid.

Mesothelioma attacks the mesothelium and can spread to the lungs, abdominal cavity and the heart, especially in its most advanced stages. It is a rare cancer, affecting only around 3,000 people each year. It is alarmingly deadly due to its slowly developing nature; when the tumor or tumors have grown large enough to make an impact on one's health, it is often too late to properly cure. Mesothelioma tumors put pressure on the lungs and impair breathing function, which is usually the first sign to people that something is wrong. Mesothelioma also develops years and decades following exposure, which is another reason why people may not realize something is wrong, and may not connect the cause with the effects. Even a doctor can over look mesothelioma and treat it as another illness.

Former weavers who may have been exposed to asbestos are encouraged to see a doctor regularly. Having regular visits, exams, screenings and biopsies will enable the physician to monitor the progress of any suspicious health problems and catch mesothelioma or another asbestos disease early on. With mesothelioma, early detection of the tumor is essential. It can mean a better prognosis, more effective treatment, and a better outlook on life. As the number of mesothelioma cases starts to rise over the next few years, it will be increasingly more important to know the signs and be aware of what can happen. One less life lost to mesothelioma is truly a significant milestone.


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