Alvaston, UK—A joiner who worked with asbestos sheets for years has died from
, a rare form of cancer associated with this toxic building material.
Asbestos is comprised of thin, needle-like, and yet microscopic fibers that can be inhaled. They cannot, however, be exhaled or otherwise expelled from the body, because they embed themselves into the membrane that lines the inside of the thoracic and abdominal cavities, and surrounds the heart and lungs. This membrane, the mesothelium, can then develop tumors—malignant pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma—that are often non-localized and difficult to surgically resect.
David Hartley, who was only 57 when he died, had worked at the Reckitt and Coleman site during his employment with Byard and Green shop fitters. His employment as a joiner for this firm, which lasted from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, required him to cut, drill and fit asbestos sheets. Asbestos was often used as an insulating and strengthening component in a variety of construction materials and consumer products.
Joiners, engineers, plumbers, electricians, boilermakers, and mill workers are among the occupational demographics that are most at risk to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions. Also at high risk are Navy veterans, as asbestos was widely used in the military until the late 20th Century.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, but a deadly one. Although it may remain latent and undiagnosed in the body for up to 50 years, by the time it is diagnosed it has typically reached one of the later, and untreatable, stages. Fewer than 10 percent of patients live past the two-year mark, and the majority die within months of learning that they have the cancer.
Treatment for mesothelioma consists of surgery, if the cancer is detected early enough; chemotherapy; and radiation. Many late-stage patient choose not to pursue these treatment options, however, as they feel that the side effects are too great, and instead opt for pain management.