April 3rd, 2018 by Charlie Blackburn | NAACCReview Home Leave a comment


Rachel Lynch
Press and Media Coordinator



Before the technological revolution and the automation of everything, the world went through an industrialization period. Americans built things with their hands; tradesmen, construction workers, and laborers of all kinds put their blood, sweat, and tears into the creation of buildings, ships, and goods. This time period also aligns with the height of asbestos use. The umbrella term, asbestos, is used to describe six different fibrous minerals and was widely used because of its ability to resist heat, fire, and electricity.

What is Asbestos?

Modern asbestos use in the United States began in the 1930s and peaked during the early 1970s, before federal regulations and alternative options lead to a decline in use. While more than 60 countries around the world have taken actions to prohibit the mineral’s use, the United States has yet to fully implement its own ban. In addition to the United States, the substance is still legal in Russia and Canada. The continued use of the toxic material around the globe is troublesome due to its complications following exposure. Asbestos causes lung cancer, asbestosis, and the rare mesothelioma cancer; in fact the toxin is the only known cause of mesothelioma.


What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can develop in the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdominal cavity. The most common form is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases. According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control, 2,400 to 2,800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year. The states with the highest number of mesothelioma deaths, from 2001 to 2010, were California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas. Mesothelioma mortality rates are two to four times higher in port cities and parts of “Rust Belt” states.


Mesothelioma and Seniors

Mesothelioma most often affects senior citizens and, unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the disease. Symptoms of the disease can often take decades to develop following initial exposure to the mineral, resulting in a diagnosis much later in life. After such a long period of time has passed, many patients have forgotten about their exposure period and are often uneducated about the potential risks associated with their previous activity.

Unfortunately, while asbestos use has waned in more recent years there has been an increase in the incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) in patients 70 years of age and older. According to the Italian study, patients older than 65 years of age represent 67.4 percent of the registered MPM population, with 26.1 percent of cases diagnosed between 75 and 84-years-old. This population is underserved across the board in the clinical trial realm – geriatric clinical trials are riskier than those for younger patients because they typically have more unrelated health complications. Due to the lack of clinical trials available to identify the best course of treatment for geriatric mesothelioma patients, awareness is the safest way to ensure the best prognosis possible.

With more awareness and education, the hope is that patients will be knowledgeable about their medical history – including any previous asbestos exposure – and initiate conversations with their medical professionals. Starting these conversations early is paramount because catching the disease in its early stages may improve prognosis and treatment options.


How to Prevent Exposure

While much of the exposure occurred years ago when asbestos was not regulated there is still a danger to the public. It has been thirty years since peak asbestos use in the United States, and there are still upwards of 2000 mesothelioma cases diagnosed annually which proves that the US population is still at risk.

Through 2020, the rate of death for malignant mesothelioma in developed countries is expected to increase by 5 to 10 percent annually.

Asbestos can still be found in homes and public buildings built through the 1970s. If your home or office was built during this time period it is in your best interest to have it inspected for asbestos before completing any renovation projects. Insulation, ceiling/floor tiles, cements, caulking, and furnaces are just some examples of the numerous products that once contained asbestos. While current United States federal law requires that newly-manufactured products contain no more than one percent asbestos, products with higher concentrations of the mineral are still lurking in structures across the country. Invest in your future health by ensuring your spaces are free from the carcinogen.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and may not represent the official positions of NAACCR.


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