Guest Post: Asbestos Exposure and Occupational Safety

Monday, December 12, 2011

The naturally occurring mineral, asbestos, has been used as a manufacturing material for its insulating and fireproofing capabilities. Asbestos has been incorporated into an estimated 5,000 types of products. Occupations that have a strong history of using asbestos-containing products include those in shipyards, power plants, chemical plants, construction, manufacturing and automotive industries. According to the World Health Organization, at least 200,000 people die from cancer related to the work place and about 125 million are exposed to asbestos at work.

Due to the widespread use of asbestos, most workers within these industries may have been exposed to the toxic mineral at some point during their employment. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. While there are no immediate health effects after experiencing asbestos exposure, symptoms of these conditions can arise between 10 and 50 years from the time of someone’s initial exposure to asbestos. Recently, it has been found that being exposed later in life reduces the chances of developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the lining of the organs. The three main forms of mesothelioma affect the pleural lining of the lungs, the peritoneal lining of the stomach, and the pericardial lining of the heart.

There are very few treatment options for these conditions and early detection may offer patients a greater chance of survival. Since asbestos-related conditions are typically diagnosed during the later stages of development, prognosis is often poor. The average mesothelioma life expectancy ranges between 4 and 18 months following diagnosis.

If you suspect asbestos is present, treat the material in question as if it was asbestos and notify your supervisor. The only way to know if asbestos is present is by taking an air sample at your home or workplace. The air sample needs to be analyzed by a professional using polarized light microscopy or transmission electron microscopy.

About the Author: Ben Leer is an outreach coordinator with the Mesothelioma Center. He has worked toward the education and awareness of mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases since 2009. The Mesothelioma Center is dedicated to provide the most up-to-date information regarding mesothelioma and asbestos.

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