Asbestos is comprised of naturally-occurring minerals. It's also used in many trades, like the auto and home construction industries, largely because of its ability to resist heat and fire. If you've ever heard someone speak about asbestos though, then most likely he or she has warned you to steer very far away from it. This is because, in recent decades, researchers have found that it can be particularly harmful to an individual's health.
Workers were first exposed to this mineral starting in the 1940s. At that time, auto manufacturers would use pieces of asbestos to avoid having the friction, caused by shifting a car's transmission, from starting a fire. Home builders would use these fibers as an insulator as well. As workers cut the fibers to make car parts or as they insulated a home, they broke up these compounds, releasing its deadly fibers into the air.
In some cases, decades passed before veteran workers from these industries started appearing in their doctor's offices with all too common, debilitating symptoms. Their condition came to be known as mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer that appears to only afflict those who have experienced repeated exposure to this toxin.
For those exposed to amphibole asbestos, they've being diagnosed with the cancer at much higher rates than their counterparts exposed only to the chrysotile variety. As for the amphibole type of asbestos, researchers have found that it has a tendency to live in your lungs for an extended period of time. Scientists suspect that's one of the reasons this strain ultimately results in a mesothelioma diagnosis for the patient.
Some of the earliest signs of mesothelioma include blood in one's mucus, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, weight loss and fatigue. If you appear before your doctor with a combination of many of these symptoms, he or she may have you first do an X-ray and then do a lung biopsy to confirm his or her suspicions.
If you've been diagnosed with mesothelioma or some other type of work-related illness, then you may be eligible to recover medical costs, lost wages and other expenses by filing a claim against your former employer. A Dauphin, Pennsylvania, workers' compensation attorney can advise you as to the merits of your claim.
Source: National Cancer Institute, "Asbestos exposure and cancer risk," accessed July 13, 2017