Asbestos was once commonly used in everything from insulation to heat-resistant fabrics. As a strong, nonflammable product, it was once a highly valued commodity in America.
Despite all of its benefits, asbestos exposure is definitively linked with the deadly cancer mesothelioma. Between 1989 and 2002, 100,000 people were diagnosed with mesothelioma, the majority of whom were men. Although no two patients are exactly alike, mesothelioma diagnoses are more common for workers in Hawaii in certain industries.
Where Is Asbestos Found?
Asbestos is a commercial product that refers to any of six fibrous minerals. The problem with these naturally occurring minerals is that they easily break down into tiny particles when handled. These microscopic particles then hang around in the air, often until they are inhaled or settle on surfaces.
According to the EPA, products that typically contain asbestos include:
- Auto parts
- HVAC insulation
- Boiler insulation
- Pipe insulation
- Roofing felt
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Ceiling tiles
- Fire curtains
- Cement siding
This is far from an exhaustive list of items potentially contaminated with asbestos. If you are doing home repairs or work with any of these or similar products, you should first have a sample analyzed for the presence of asbestos.
However, old products containing asbestos might actually pose a greater risk to workers. As products that contain asbestos wear out and break down over time, they release those microscopic asbestos fibers back out into the air where they are easily inhaled by workers.
Workers Frequently Exposed to Asbestos
Asbestos is a highly dangerous human carcinogen. Even limited or irregular exposure can lead to the development of the deadly cancer mesothelioma. While people who work in blue-collar industries tend to be disproportionately exposed to asbestos, any worker in any job who is routinely exposed to this carcinogen can receive a mesothelioma diagnosis in the future.
Anyone who works with products that contain asbestos or in old buildings built before the 1980s may be regularly exposed without ever realizing it, and may include:
- Construction workers
- Auto mechanics
- Maintenance workers
- Aircraft mechanics
- HVAC workers
- First responders
- Mine workers
- Office workers
Asbestos was once commonly used in America’s schools, and records show that it is still present in around 33% of schools nationwide. Unfortunately, many schools are also chronically underfunded, which means that school administrations often do not have the funds for things like upkeep and maintenance. As these buildings age and go without necessary repairs, asbestos breaks down and is released into the air, exposing teachers to this hazardous material and increasing their risk of developing mesothelioma.
Everyone in Hawaii deserves to be safe in the workplace. Learning that what you did for a living ultimately came with a mesothelioma diagnosis is not easy.
Mesothelioma Symptoms and Diagnosis
Mesothelioma is a unique cancer as it takes years or even decades before patients start showing symptoms. It develops in the mesothelium, which is the thin tissue lining many internal organs. The average person will not even begin developing related symptoms until anywhere from 20 to 50 years after their first exposure.
By the time someone starts experiencing symptoms, the cancer has had time to grow and develop into later stages. See a doctor as soon as possible if you ever worked with asbestos and start developing any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bowel obstructions
- Difficulty swallowing
Doctors may perform several different tests if they suspect mesothelioma when you present with these symptoms:
- Blood tests – Patients with mesothelioma generally have higher levels of osteopontin, fibulin-3, and soluble mesothelin-related peptides in their blood than the average patient does. These blood tests do not provide a firm diagnosis but can guide a doctor’s decision to conduct further testing.
- Fluid and tissue samples – If you have fluid buildup in your abdomen, chest cavity, or the membrane around your heart, your doctor might take a sample with a needle. The sample can then be examined for cancer cells under a microscope. Again, this test doesn’t necessarily diagnose mesothelioma but will be used to determine whether additional testing is needed.
- Biopsies – A biopsy is when a doctor removes tissue to examine it for mesothelioma. There are several types of biopsies, including needle, surgical, and laparoscopy ones. Your doctor will perform the safest and most effective type of biopsy for you.
- Image testing – Imaging like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs are non-invasive tests that allow your doctor to view areas of concern inside your body. These are often a vital part of any mesothelioma diagnosis.
Living With Mesothelioma
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is some of the most devastating news you may ever receive. Mesothelioma, in particular, can limit the scope of your future, as prognoses are often poor. Treatments for mesothelioma like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery can take a toll on your body, too.
What was once a happy and fulfilling life might now be taken up by hospital visits, costly procedures, and ongoing pain and suffering. Few people realize just how much of your life a cancer diagnosis will take up. To have worked hard and lived a life you were proud of, only to be rewarded like this, is grossly unjust.
At Frost Law Firm, PC, we understand how truly isolating this experience can be. Our mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers are dedicated to providing compassionate support and guidance to victims who need help recovering compensation. If given the opportunity, we will put our combined 70 years of experience and knowledge to work for you on your own journey to get compensation for your medical bills, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
Whether you were recently diagnosed or are further along in your treatment, we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.