Philadelphia, PA—A farmer and former Korean War veteran has fallen victim to the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma. William J. Haines Sr., was 81 when he died of the cancer last Saturday. He was a lifelong farmer, and also worked after his retirement for the Upper Moreland Parks and Recreation Department. He was also a veteran of the United States Army, and was proud of having served during the conflict in Korea. It’s likely that he contracted his mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while serving his country, as veterans are among the occupational groups most at risk to be diagnosed with mesothelioma later in life.
Asbestos was frequently used in a wide variety of industrial and manufacturing applications, particularly in the mid-20th Century. Because it is highly resistant to heat and fire, as well as strong, flexible and durable, it has been added to a number of other building substances and woven into cloth and yarn. Asbestos was employed as insulation wherever there was a risk of fire or high temperatures, including boilers, steam systems, electrical systems, car brakes, furnaces, and many other locations. Although once considered a “miracle mineral,” asbestos has fallen out of favor as studies have shown that it is extremely toxic to humans and animals. When any material or substance containing asbestos is manufactured, installed or damaged, it releases into the surrounding air a fine dust composed of sharp yet microscopic fibers. These fibers can settle into the lungs and develop into an unusual form of cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Alternatively, they can also be ingested and cause cancer in the abdominal region, which is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can remain asymptomatic for up to 40 or even 50 years before it is diagnosed. Because of this long latency period, many patients are elderly, and are given only a short time to live after diagnosis—the median life expectancy is four to 18 months. More than 2,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.