Between 1940 and 1979, it is estimated that roughly 230,000 deaths were caused by asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. During this time, more than 30 million tons of asbestos were used in U.S. homes, schools and commercial buildings. It was also used in the industrial sector. In the industrial sector, asbestos was commonly used in power plants, shipyards and steel mills.
Asbestos is currently banned in Australia, Argentina, Chile ,Croatia, and Saudi Arabia, but several countries such as Russia and Canada still mine asbestos. In the U.S., the substance is strictly regulated, but it is not totally banned. While asbestos is no longer a common building material in the U.S., this dangerous substance can still be found in thousands of different products and materials. Keep in mind that asbestos had been used in more than 3,000 products from 1900-1980.
Asbestos can still be found in cement, automotive, and everyday household products, and in construction materials such as flex board. Individuals that may have worked extensively with flex board in the past are at the greatest risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Before today, the safe-handling of flex board was not monitored or taken very seriously.
Today, the dangers of handling asbestos-containing products, such as flex board, are well-known. Because the handling of products like flex board releases dangerous asbestos fibers, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) currently offers the following guidelines for handling and removing the material: wear a respirator approved for use with asbestos, use wet procedures for clean-up, do not use power operated or other tools to cut or drill because this can create respirable dust levels, and keep all asbestos-containing products out of the reach of children.
It is important to note that everyone from homeowners to construction, heating and insulation workers may have been exposed to asbestos between roughly 1940-1980. The period of time between exposure to asbestos-containing flex board and the onset of symptoms is estimated at 15 to 50 years. Signs of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath, pleural effusion, and pain in the chest, abdomen, shoulder or arm. Weight loss, anemia, fever and bowel obstruction may also occur.
Mesothelioma may be diagnosed through physical examination, chest x-ray, complete blood count (CBC), sedimentation rate, bronchoscopy, cytologic exam or biopsy. Traditional treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.