What Causes Mesothelioma
Malignant Mesothelioma is a “sentinel” or “signal” cancer. What this means is that the relationship between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure is indisputable. Virtually every case of malignant mesothelioma involves a person who was exposed to asbestos. When the dust created by an asbestos product is inhaled, the microscopic asbestos fibers become lodged in a person’s lung tissue. These fibers then act as a powerful carcinogen.
Researchers still do not fully comprehend the way in which asbestos causes mesothelioma. It is clear, however, that the tiny, spear-like asbestos fibers damage tissue and cause inflammation. Researchers also believe that the asbestos fibers cause genetic changes in the mesothelial cells. As time passes, these genetic mutations can become malignant and turn into cancer.
Asbestos Exposure at Work
Mesothelioma is a “sentinel” cancer in that those people diagnosed with this rare cancer nearly always have a history of occupational exposure to asbestos. This means that they were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers while performing their day-to-day job activities. Tragically, mesothelioma is especially prevalent among those who served our country in the United States Navy. Former shipyard workers, insulators, boilermakers, construction workers, and other tradesmen who were heavily exposed to asbestos at work also experience high relative rates of mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, it is not only heavy work-related exposure to asbestos that causes mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can occur with individuals who merely had very short or low levels of asbestos exposure. The consensus in the scientific community is that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Household Exposure to Asbestos
Medical researchers have documented numerous cases where the wives and children of men who worked with or around asbestos contracted mesothelioma. These family members were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers from the asbestos that was carried home by loved ones on work clothes. This phenomenon is often referred to as “Household Exposure.” Bystander exposure is another indirect method of becoming afflicted with mesothelioma. In this situation, workers at a jobsite are exposed to asbestos fibers when other workers undertake work with asbestos products.
Identifying Asbestos Exposure
Past exposures may be difficult to identify. Often the past exposure to asbestos is forgotten or unknown. Because malignant mesothelioma routinely develops decades after a person’s exposure to asbestos, patients do not always know precisely when, where, or how they were exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is found in numerous products. Workers are often unaware that certain products even contained asbestos. Moreover, asbestos is encountered in numerous situations – many of which do not involve traditional work environments. For example, asbestos was commonly used in paper, floor tiles, and even dish towels. Also, asbestos exposure occurs to bystanders who happen to be around places where construction is taking place or buildings are being remodeled.
Mesothelioma Develops Decades after Exposure
Most mesothelioma victims are over 50 years old. This is due to the fact that there is a long period of time between asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma. However, some victims who grew up in a household with a family member who worked with asbestos may be as young as 30 when they develop they deadly disease. These younger victims were exposed to asbestos when they were children from the dust that their fathers unwittingly brought home on their clothes and hair.
Our Experience in Identifying Your Asbestos Exposure
Our firm has over 30 years of experience in vigorously representing victims of asbestos exposure. We are extremely knowledgeable with regard to the uses of asbestos products and to potential exposure sites. Part of our job is to leave no stone unturned and to thoroughly investigate all potential sources of asbestos exposure.