From 1940 to 1979, more than 30 million tons of asbestos were used in U.S. homes, schools, and commercial buildings, as well as in the industrial sector. In the industrial sector, the deadly material was commonly used in power plants, shipyards, and in steel mills. While this hazardous substance is currently banned in countries such as Australia, Argentina, Chile, Croatia, and Saudi Arabia, several countries such as Russia and Canada still mine asbestos. In the United States, the substance is strictly regulated, but it is not totally banned.
While the number of asbestos-related deaths has decreased considerably, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that nearly 10,000 asbestos-related deaths still occur in the U.S. annually. Between 1940 and 1979, roughly 230,000 deaths were caused by asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Although asbestos is no longer a common building material in the U.S., the dangerous compound 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 be found in everything from asphalt to yarn. Asbestos-containing building materials such as duplex was once used quite frequently in the construction industry, but asbestos-containing duplex pipe covering is totally banned in the U.S. Duplex pipe covering was once used in air conditioning and heating applications in homes and office structures for insulating pipes. The material was actually made of rolled asbestos paper. Individuals who may have worked with this type of insulation as late as the 1970s may eventually develop mesothelioma – especially if they were exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers.
It is important to keep in mind that the time between exposure to asbestos via duplex pipe covering or any other asbestos-containing products and the onset of symptoms is estimated at 20 to 50 years. Because of this, most mesothelioma cases are diagnosed later in life. Signs of mesothelioma include shortness of breath or dyspnea, a build-up of too much fluid between the pleura (the linings of the lungs and chest) called pleural effusion, and pain in the chest, abdomen, shoulder or arm. Depending on the type of mesothelioma, weight loss may also occur as well as anemia, fever, and bowel obstruction.
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 or radiotherapy.