Clay Artists and Jewelry Makers: Asbestos exposure and Mesothelioma Risks
If you think about those harmed by asbestos, you probably think about people working in construction and auto repair. But thousands of asbestos-containing products touched nearly everyone’s lives until it was heavily regulated in the late 1970s.
People who used clay for artwork and created jewelry were also exposed to asbestos fibers. Inhaling them could lead to lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer. Other lethal cancers associated with asbestos exposure include pericardial and peritoneal mesotheliomas. If you or a loved one has one of these conditions, compensation for the harm done may be available.
What Do Clay Artists Do?
Children, teachers, students, and artists could use clay for artwork. It may be used in anything from kindergarten to sculpture by professional artists.
What Do Jewelry Makers Do?
A jewelry maker, or jeweler, uses metals, gems, and other materials to design and create rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. They may also repair, adjust, clean, and appraise jewelry.
How Were Clay Artists Exposed to Asbestos?
Clay for artwork may contain talc, a mineral fiber often found near or mixed with another mineral fiber, asbestos. Clay is baked or fired in a kiln where it hardens. Talc (and inadvertently asbestos) was often added as a “flux” which allows the process to work at lower temperatures. The person using the clay may buy it with the talc already mixed in, or they may add the talc themselves.
One example is Fibro-Clay which was made by the toy company Milton Bradley Co. It was recalled by the company in 1983 because it contained asbestos. Milton Bradley stated that asbestos was an ingredient from 1967 to 1972. This popular modeling compound was used to make papier-mâché.
Dried pieces of clay may release asbestos fibers into the air.
How Were Jewelry Makers Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos is heat and fire-resistant so was used as insulation and as a way to protect a person from high heat. Jewelry makers used asbestos to create forms used when jewelry pieces were soldered together.
Soldering involves an electric tool, a soldering iron, which is heated to more than 600 degrees. It’s used to join metal pieces together by connecting them with melted solder (a metal alloy), which later cools into a solid bond.
These forms were a mixture of asbestos and water which held metal pieces together during the soldering process. Jewelers also used asbestos-containing gloves and pads as heat protection while they soldered.
While creating or using these forms or when using asbestos-containing gloves or pads, asbestos fibers may be released and breathed in by the jewelry maker.
What Dangers Did They Face?
Asbestos is classified as a known carcinogen (a cancer-causing substance) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
When asbestos-containing products are used or disturbed, asbestos fibers are released into the air. After they’re inhaled, they may be trapped in the lungs and remain there for as long as the person lives. Over time, these fibers cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and cause cancer (lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma), reports the National Cancer Institute.
The immune system recognizes asbestos fibers in the lungs as foreign. White cells attack them to try to destroy them, but asbestos fibers are unaffected. The white cells die and spill out enzymes which injure nearby cells, causing inflammation. This can cause severe breathing problems and genetic changes in the lung tissue, which may cause cancer, and mesothelioma of the pleura, which lines the lungs.
Asbestos fibers in the membrane surrounding the heart could cause pericardial mesothelioma. Fibers swallowed could go through the digestive system and into the membrane covering the abdominal cavity and organs. Many years later, peritoneal mesothelioma may form.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
It’s a treatable but usually incurable form of cancer. Treatment may improve your quality of life and extend it, but there is no known cure for the disease.
Past medical studies and statistics are used to determine the relative survival rate for different cancer types and their stage (how far the cancer spread). A five-year relative survival rate of 30% means someone with that type of cancer, at a specific stage, is about 30% as likely as those without it to live at least five years after diagnosis.
The American Cancer Society estimates that the overall five-year relative survival rate for those with pleural mesothelioma is 12%. For those whose disease is localized and limited, the rate is 20%, while it’s 8% for those at the most advanced stage.
A study of 108 people treated for peritoneal mesothelioma was discussed in a 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer. Researchers found that 43.6% survived seven or more years after treatment. A study of pericardial mesothelioma patients states the average survival was two months after diagnosis.
As a comparison, the following are the overall five-year survival rate for other cancers:
- Breast cancer 90%
- Acute myeloid leukemia 29.5%
- Pancreatic cancer 11%
Your age, overall health, and type of mesothelioma affect your prognosis.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one was a clay artist or jewelry maker and were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley attorneys can answer your questions, advise you of your rights to compensation, and discuss the necessary steps to protect them. Call our Louisville office at 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 855-385-9532. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.