According to UK Health and Safety Executive, asbestos related diseases are the leading cause of national work related deaths, responsible for about 4000 deaths annually. Classified as a Type 1 carcinogen by World Health Organization, asbestos is known to cause several severe respiratory illnesses including fatal cancer mesothelioma. Following last century’s heavy asbestos use, seen worldwide, this century’s workforce is dealing with high risks of exposure to the toxin.
Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits have been filed over the years as employees realize risks and dangers of their workplace and accuse their bosses of negligence. Although many employers have been ignorantly uneducated of asbestos risks, or just ignorant to its presence, others have intentionally hidden or minimized dangers, to the detriment of their workers.
Mesothelioma is characterized by a latency period of several decades. For most mesothelioma patients, symptoms that demonstrate at the end of this time, during the disease’s final and most aggressive stage, are the first warning signs they get of the cancer’s presence. Sadly, there is little that can be done so late in mesothelioma development.
Mesothelioma treatments are available, but there is no known cure. Standard treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These are often administered in combination as palliative care, focusing on making the patient more comfortable and extending their life expectancy. Some radical treatments are also available for patients who meet certain criteria.
Because of heavy asbestos use in large-scale industry and manufacturing through the last century, mesothelioma has historically been considered an industrial disease. However, countless products stabilized with asbestos fibers and installed decades ago in homes, offices, schools and municipal buildings, are now beginning to break down and release asbestos fibers. Everyday life for those who have never spent a day in industry could be providing ample opportunity for toxic asbestos exposure.
Safety officials around the world are changing their regulations, protocols and emergency response techniques in light of this unique danger. Public health is now at risk from the very air. Specifically affected are contractors and repair workers handling components of older buildings. Respiratory protection is fast becoming just a minimum safety precaution for even the simplest job.
World Health Organization estimates mesothelioma cases are on the rise globally as potential for asbestos exposure grows. About twenty thousand cases are recorded annually around the world, but thousands more are expected to be unnoted. If asbestos use and handling is not greatly and quickly curbed mesothelioma case numbers could be pushing one hundred thousand within the next few decades.