From 1940-1979, it is estimated that mesothelioma (an asbestos-related cancer) caused 230,000 deaths nationwide. During this time period, more than 30 million tons of asbestos were used in everything from commercial buildings and schools to homes across America. It was also used frequently in the industrial sector in environments such as 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. And in the United States, the substance is strictly regulated, but it is not totally banned.
Products that contain asbestos can still be found in the United States and according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly 10,000 asbestos-related deaths still occur across the nation each year. While asbestos is no longer a common building material in America, this dangerous substance can also still be found in thousands of different products and materials – industrial or otherwise. It is important to note that asbestos had been used in more than 3,000 products from 1900-1980.
Asbestos can be found in everything from asphalt, cable and clay to sheets and yarn. It can also be found in common building materials such as electrical wiring insulation. Electrical wiring insulation is the electrical wiring that can be found in every home, office building or warehouse. In the past this wiring was insulated with asbestos. Those at risk are individuals that worked with electrical wiring insulation either in manufacturing or building, and even people who have asbestos-containing electrical wiring in their offices, commercial spaces, and homes. Fortunately, electrical wiring insulation that is manufactured today does not contain asbestos.
The period of time between exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms is estimated at 20 to 50 years. Because of this, most mesothelioma cases are diagnosed much later in life. There are several symptoms that may point to mesothelioma including shortness of breath, 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 anemia, fever, and bowel obstruction may also occur.
Mesothelioma may be diagnosed through physical examination, a chest x-ray or complete blood count (CBC), sedimentation rate, a bronchoscopy, cytologic exam, or biopsy. Traditional treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.