Asbestos refers to six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have the ability to resist heat, fire and electricity. Although asbestos fibers are microscopic in nature, they are extremely durable and resistant to fire and most chemical reactions and breakdowns. These properties of asbestos supported its use for many years in a number of different commercial and industrial settings, as well as in a wide range of consumer products. Although its use has diminished in recent decades, there are still many products that contain asbestos, especially in older homes, schools, and public buildings. Asbestos is perhaps best known for its role in causing mesothelioma, a rare and deadly, yet preventable cancer that can develop in linings of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.
What Exactly is Asbestos?
Many people are surprised to learn that asbestos actually is 100% natural and is a mineral that possesses special characteristics that made it perfect for insulation. It is heat and fire resistant so it was widely used to insulate machine parts, homes, ship engine rooms, and other areas where high heat tolerance and insulation was needed. It was not until the mid to late 1980’s that the dangers of asbestos began to become apparent and the used of the material was phased out in the military. Although present-day military personnel may still be at risk for asbestos exposure in some of the facilities they work at, many new and advanced safety precautions have been implemented that help isolate asbestos and help to minimize their risk. This had helped slow the spread of mesothelioma but there are still many new cases of the cancer diagnosed each year and more and more older veterans are beginning to see signs of the disease progress.
What factors increase the risk of asbestos-related disease?
Several factors will affect the likelihood of exposure to asbestos resulting in an increased risk for mesothelioma. It is impossible to fully determine how asbestos exposure will be impacted by other factors but here are some that are believed to play a larger role in the chances of someone developing mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos:
- Dose – the amount of asbestos that an individual was exposed to can potentially affect the chances of the developing lung cancer of some kind.
- Duration – length of time that someone was exposed to asbestos can also greatly impact the likelihood of them having other health issues because of that exposure.
- Asbestos Type – the size, shape, and makeup of the asbestos fibers can affect people differently and cause different reactions within the body after exposure.
- Source – it is also thought that the source of the exposure can also affect how it reacts within the body and how soon it will strike or how severe a reaction it will be.
- Individuals – each individual carries his or her one unique set of risk factors, such as smoking, other health conditions, and pre-existing lung problems.
- Genetic factors – there is some thought that genetics can play a role in how susceptible one may be to asbestos exposure- such as having a germline mutation in BAP1
“Although all forms of asbestos are considered hazardous, different types of asbestos fibers may be associated with different health risks. For example, the results of several studies suggest that amphibole forms of asbestos may be more harmful than chrysotile, particularly for mesothelioma risk, because they tend to stay in the lungs for a longer period of time” (Cancer.gov).
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Patients who are presenting troublesome symptoms such as unrelenting coughing, severe shortness of breath, or chest pains need to be seen by their doctor as soon as possible. While these are symptoms commonly shared with many other issues they are also the primary symptoms of mesothelioma. After they see their physician and alert them to their symptoms and their concern that it might be related to mesothelioma, the diagnostic process begins and this will help to determine the causes of these symptoms as well as the development of a personalized treatment plan.
Legal Steps to Take
If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma as the result of exposure to asbestos, there are legal steps you can take to get compensation for your pain and suffering and to help cover your medical expenses and loss of income through a mesothelioma lawsuit. To get the help you need with your mesothelioma case contact a personal injury attorney in your area to get started with your case. There exist lawyers for mesothelioma who are experienced in this tyle of law and can get you the help you need. You owe it to yourself and your family to get the compensation you deserve!