In 1930, the London, U.K. firm of Mereweather & Price published the results of a survey of 363 textile factory workers in England. Out of this group, over 26% showed signs of asbestosis – a respiratory disease of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.
Among those identified as being at high risk for exposure to asbestos fibers are textile workers whose job it was to weave asbestos fibers into cloth. Ironically, the clothing being manufactured in these plants was intended to be protective, particularly against heat and flame; it is believed that late film actor Steve McQueen, who died from mesothelioma in 1980, had been exposed to asbestos fibers from the fire suits he regularly wore when driving race cars.
Asbestiform minerals are literally a type of stone. Like stone, these minerals – of which six have been in common use over the decades – are resistant to heat, flame, electrical current, moisture and corrosive chemicals, and have a tensile strength equal to piano wire. Unlike stone, they are soft and pliable – very similar to cotton – and can easily be woven into cloth.
The most common type of asbestos is known as chrysotile, or serpentine. These fibers are long and curly – somewhat like a microscopic spring. The other type is called an amphipole, and includes amosite and crocidolite. Amphiopole fibers are shorter, straight and still, and resemble miniature spears – which is exactly the way they behave once they enter the body. Because it is softer, chrysotile is the type of asbestos most commonly used in the weaving of fireproof cloth.
Asbestos Fibers Inside the Body
The connection between asbestos and respiratory disease was long known throughout the world for well over seventy-five years before the corporate conspiracy to suppress such information was exposed in 1977.
Because asbestos fibers are microscopic, they are able to penetrate deep into the lungs and other parts of the body; asbestos fibers have been found in the brain and heart, and are even known to pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Inside the alveolar sacs, or air sacs of the lung, these fibers are known to irritate the tissue linings. The body’s own defenses actually attack these fibers as if they were pathogenic invaders. Because they are made of inorganic stone however, such antibodies have no effect; instead, they tear themselves apart, causing the digestive enzymes to spill out onto the lung tissues, causing scarring. This is what eventually leads to asbestosis.
The connection between asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma has been firmly established since the early 1960s. It is known that amphibole fibers are more likely to cause mesothelioma than chrysotile ones; most of the latter appear to be attributable to the tremolite that often contaminates chrysotile.
Current theories suggest that as asbestos fibers penetrate lung tissues as they migrate outward to the pleural (outer) lining, they irritate the cells in such a way as to cause mutation at the DNA level. It is known that smoking can exacerbate mesothelioma; smokers who have been exposed have a far greater chance of contracting asbestos cancer than non-smokers.
In addition, medical researchers are looking at the possibility that a virus, known as SV-40, which was a contaminant found in polio vaccine prior to 1963. SV (simian virus) 40 has been implicated in a number of cancers, but there is disagreement as to whether this virus by itself causes healthy cells to become cancerous. If indeed this virus does play a part, it is more likely that it is only one part of a series of interactions between asbestos fibers, free radicals and genetic materials that ultimately causes cellular mutations.