What Causes Mesothelioma? Who’s at Risk for Developing It?
Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive, and fatal form of cancer. If you or a loved one have the disease, the most likely cause is asbestos. The more a person is in contact with this mineral fiber, the more likely asbestos caused his or her mesothelioma.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of minerals that are heat and corrosion resistant. Over the centuries, it’s been used in many products, including fire-retardant foam, steam pipe insulation, floor tiles, adhesives, vehicle brakes, and clutches.
Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
Asbestos exposure causes most mesothelioma cases, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Asbestos-containing products can release fibers into the air. Those nearby can breathe them in or swallow them. These products are especially dangerous if they’re older and falling apart because they’re much more likely to release asbestos than when they’re intact.
There are rare cases of people developing mesothelioma without a known history of being around asbestos. However, that person was likely exposed to asbestos without knowing it.
What Increases the Risk of Developing Mesothelioma?
These factors make it more likely you’ll get mesothelioma, though few falling into these categories develop the disease. The CDC estimates that between 1999 to 2018, 62,550 Americans were diagnosed with mesothelioma, the majority of them men, or about 3,000 each year. To put this number in context, about 100 people are diagnosed with breast cancer for every person diagnosed with mesothelioma.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology:
- The overwhelming majority of those diagnosed with mesothelioma have a known occupational, environmental and/or para-occupational (household) exposure to asbestos. While some studies indicate there are other causes or factors responsible for producing mesothelioma, such as radiation exposure or genetics, the vast majority of cases have had significant asbestos exposure.
Whether or not you have mesothelioma would be based on a biopsy of affected tissue.
Who Is Most at Risk for Mesothelioma?
People with the greatest levels of asbestos exposure run the highest disease risk. That can happen as part of a person’s job, during their time in the military, if they lived with someone working with asbestos, or asbestos products were in their home.
Workers in these jobs had high asbestos exposure before the 1990s. mesothelioma can take decades to develop, so there’s still a chance the person may end up with it:
- Construction workers worked with many types of asbestos-containing building materials when they built, repaired, or demolished buildings
- Those working on boilers in large buildings may have installed or torn off asbestos insulation on the boiler or connected steam pipes
- Factory workers may have been exposed to asbestos because it was in the building, or they assembled or created asbestos-containing products
- Firefighters can be exposed if they enter older buildings containing asbestos, especially if the products are torn or falling apart
- Specialized trade members (millwrights, electricians, boilermakers, pipefitters, machinists) worked with asbestos materials. They may have mixed products, cut them, applied them on hot surfaces, or removed them
- Miners may be exposed when working in open pit mines. Their job may have been to dig raw asbestos out of the ground, or they sought other materials, and asbestos was mixed in
- Automobile mechanics frequently changed brakes and clutches, which contained asbestos.
- Asbestos products surrounded power plant employees working in older facilities. It was used to insulate boilers and pipes and was part of electrical wiring and panels
- Shipyard workers, and those working on ships they built or repaired, were exposed to asbestos. Boilers powered large vessels, and they’re essentially small, floating power plants
- Textile mills used asbestos building materials and machinery, looms and laundry rooms had asbestos insulation. Some fabrics created in mills also contained the mineral
Homes were no refuge from asbestos. Workers may return after a day’s work with asbestos fibers on their clothes, potentially breathed in by family members. Someone doing vehicle repairs at home could encounter asbestos-containing brakes and clutches. Those repairing or renovating their homes may encounter asbestos-containing tiles, adhesives, joint compounds, and papers and cloths used as insulation.
Occupants of homes where asbestos-containing products were unsafely removed could breathe in the fibers. You could also be exposed to fibers if you lived near an area where asbestos was illegally dumped instead of being properly disposed of as hazardous waste.
Call Us Today for A Free Consultation
Financial compensation may be available if you or someone you love has mesothelioma or an asbestos-related illness. Call our Louisville office at 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 800-655-2117. You may also complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.