During a period of time lasting nearly 40 years, it is estimated that 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 homes, schools, and commercial buildings, across the United States as well as in industrial environments such as power plants, shipyards, and steel mills. While this hazardous substance is currently banned in Australia, Argentina, Chile, Croatia, Saudi Arabia, and many others, several countries such as Russia and Canada still mine and export asbestos. In the United States today asbestos is strictly regulated, but it is not totally banned.
The number of asbestos-related deaths is considerably lower today than it was yesterday, but according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), roughly 10,000 asbestos-related deaths still occur each year. 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 products, automotive products, and in everyday household materials and products. It can also be found in a variety of construction and renovation products. While the material was commonly used in products, such as heat guards, for decades, asbestos is no longer an ingredient in this product in the U.S. Heat guard is a heat-resistant protective sheathing made of fiberglass and silicone rubber. In addition to construction and renovation, it is commonly used in welding areas, engine compartments, steel mills, oil rigs, and hot asphalt.
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. Signs of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath (dyspnea), pleural effusion — a build-up of too much fluid between the linings of the lungs and chest, 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.