During a period of time lasting nearly 40 years, it is estimated that roughly 230,000 deaths were caused by asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. From 1940-1979 more than 30 million tons of asbestos was used in U.S. homes, schools and commercial buildings across the United States , and in the industrial sector as well. In the industrial sector, asbestos-containing products were used in power plants, shipyards, and steel mills. While this hazardous substance is currently banned in countries around the world such as Australia , Argentina , Chile , Croatia , and Saudi Arabia , several countries such as Russia and Canada still mine asbestos. In the U.S. , the substance is strictly regulated, but unfortunately, it is not totally banned.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), in the U.S. today, nearly 10,000 asbestos-related deaths still occur annually. 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 has 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 and heating products such as gunning mix. Gunning mix is used for repairing the slag zone around the mantle surface of the lining of a steel melting furnace. While asbestos-containing gunning mix is still in use in some areas of the world and it may still be found in older furnaces, fortunately, asbestos is no longer used in the gunning mixtures manufactured or prepared today.
The period between the time of exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms is estimated at 20 to 50 years. Because of this, most mesothelioma cases are diagnosed later in life and unfortunately it may already be too advanced for traditional treatments. Signs of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath (dyspnea), a build-up of too much fluid between the linings of the lungs and chest (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 in several ways. It may be diagnosed through physical examination, chest x-ray, complete blood count (CBC), or sedimentation rate, as well as bronchoscopy, cytologic exam, or biopsy. If the disease can be treated, there are several traditional treatment options including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy or radiotherapy.