Last month we discussed The importance of Protective gear when working with asbestos. The information came from “Public Outreach Department for the Mesothelioma Center” Kyle Walsh. Kyle offered to expand on this and we were excited to accept his offer. These folks have a wealth of knowledge in this area, and its an ongoing safety issue which needs to be dealt with.
What to Do if Exposed to Asbestos
There is no reason to panic if you have been exposed to asbestos, the toxic mineral that can cause a number of serious health issues.
But there is good reason to stay vigilant.
Although no amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe, the odds are still great for developing an asbestos-related disease. Asbestos exposure can lead to a variety of respiratory illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma cancer. But it’s far from automatic. Millions of Americans each year experience some type of asbestos exposure, but only a small percentage is diagnosed with a serious disease.
The majority of those being diagnosed today are those who experienced prolonged, occupational exposure many years before. And even then, there is no certainty.
An estimated 3,000 people in the U.S. are still diagnosed annually with mesothelioma. By comparison, an estimated 220,000 will be diagnosed with lung cancer.
There are a handful of mesothelioma cases stemming from second-hand, or casual, one-time exposure, but they are not typical or common. Although the use of asbestos and asbestos products has dropped significantly in recent decades, the ubiquitous use of asbestos through much of the 20th century remains with us today in commercial and residential structures. There were more than 2,000 different products once made with asbestos. Many are still with us. The danger still exists, so be aware and alert to the warning signs.
Asbestos diseases start with the inhalation or ingestion of the microscopic asbestos fibers that can become lodged in the thin lining around the thoracic cavity or abdomen.
Unfortunately, there is no widely accepted screening test, such as a mammogram or colonoscopy, to check for early asbestos-related disease. Asbestos-related disease does present some initial symptoms that can be recognized and lead to early detection, which is critical when it comes to therapy. Although the symptoms often mirror those of less-serious health problems, do not just ignore them if they persist. Symptoms to look for include:
• Tightness or pain in the chest • Shortness of breath • A dry hacking cough • Unexplained weight loss
Anyone with a background that includes consistent occupational exposure or anyone from the military where asbestos was so prevalent, should take special note.
“Don’t just blow off those symptoms. Don’t just sit home and try to be a hero if these symptoms don’t go away in a couple weeks after taking antibiotics,” said mesothelioma specialist and thoracic surgeon Dr. Rodney Landreneau in Pittsburgh. “Don’t let your doctor just dismiss the problem. Ask for an X-ray to start. It could be something serious.”
Those symptoms could be a sign of pleural plaques, which are fibrous thickenings of the thin lining around the lungs, a chronic inflammatory condition. Those plaques are not cancerous. They are treatable, but could signal an increased risk for mesothelioma in the future. Pleural plaques should be monitored by a cancer specialist.
They also are a signal to see a specialist who understands asbestos-related diseases. A specialist can put you through a series of diagnostic procedures that can identify potential problems.
Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, there are curative therapies that work if it diagnosed early enough. Most of the time, it is not diagnosed until it already has metastasized. The latency period between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis can be anywhere from 20-50 years.
“If we catch it early enough, it’s something we can really help people with,” Landreneau said. “It can make a huge difference. Therapies are much more effective today than they once were. There have been some wonderful advancements in treating this disease in recent years. But you have to catch it early."
So stay vigilant.
Again we want to thank Kyle and his team for the information. you can reach Kyle by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . Here at SafetyInstruction.com we do offer several opportunities to comply with OSHA regulations including a 2hr “on Line” Asbestos awareness course http://www.safetyinstruction.com/online-safety-training/asbestos-awareness-training-online.html
Thanks and Make it a Safe Day