Exposure to asbestos, a natural mineral used in hundreds of consumer products, is the leading risk factor for developing mesothelioma. In fact, asbestos exposure causes at least 70% of all mesothelioma cases worldwide. While medical experts are not sure how much asbestos exposure it takes for someone to develop mesothelioma, the risk for developing the disease increases in people who are exposed to asbestos in high levels or over long periods of time. In addition, being exposed to asbestos at a young age increases peoples’ risk of developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Risks at Work

People who work with or around asbestos are at the greatest risk for developing mesothelioma. While the government now regulates the amount of asbestos that workers may be exposed to, people who were exposed to asbestos at work as long as 50 years ago are still at risk for developing mesothelioma. The occupations with the highest risks include:

  • Construction workers handling or installing insulation.
  • Miners
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Roofers
  • Factory Workers
  • Electricians
  • Ship builders

Workers in the above industries face the highest risk of developing mesothelioma because when asbestos is broken up, for instance, in the mining process or in removing asbestos insulation from a building, asbestos dust is created. When asbestos dust is inhaled or swallowed, asbestos fibers may settle in the lungs or in the stomach, where they can cause irritation that may increase the risk of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Risks at Home

Up until the 1980s, asbestos was used in almost every industry. In fact, asbestos was used to make hundreds of construction materials and household products. Today, many homes may still contain materials and products made with asbestos, which means everyone living there is at risk for mesothelioma. Household items that create the highest risk for mesothelioma are:

  • Joint compound
  • Roofing tar
  • Brake pads
  • Fireproofing
  • Pipes
  • Insulation
  • Countertops
  • Floor tiles
  • Textured wall and ceiling coatings
  • Ceiling tiles

Household materials and products that are intact, do not present health risks. However, if they are damaged, they should be removed immediately by a licensed abatement company. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell whether something contains asbestos without testing it. Therefore, lowering the risk for mesothelioma in a home may require having suspicious items tested.

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Published November 17, 2011 by