When dealing with a mesothelioma diagnosis, it can be helpful to know more about how the disease is connected to asbestos exposure. At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we know that this knowledge not only allows you to seek the most appropriate medical treatment, but also gives you a better idea of the legal options available to you and your family.
Sometimes it can be hard to imagine the risks associated with certain kinds of employment. For that reason, researchers have conducted hundreds of occupational case studies over the years. These can pinpoint which types of employment carry the greatest risk of asbestos exposure and lung disease.
Early reports on asbestos risks
The first report to really hammer home the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma was published in 1960. Its authors, a trio of UK pathologists, noticed something odd in South Africa: more than 30 cases of mesothelioma, all of them clustered in the Asbestos Hills outside of Cape Province.
Using the case-control method – in which scientists survey people with a rare disease and look for shared risk factors – the group boiled the cause down to one variable: asbestos exposure. This paper unleashed a flood of ensuing case studies, each of which examined the asbestos-related risks associated with certain occupations.
Occupations at risk for asbestos exposure
Because of these reports, today we know that these occupations tend to have the highest rates of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM):
- Construction workers
- Insulation installers
- Heating equipment handlers
- Brake pad manufacturers
- Demolition workers
Unfortunately, it does not take a huge dose of asbestos to cause the kind of cell damage that is linked to MPM. A case-control study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that even though large amounts of asbestos exposure are extraordinarily dangerous, relatively small doses of the fiber can still be more than enough to engender the fatal lung disease.
Another case study appearing in the British Journal of Cancer backed up this idea. Its authors surveyed more than 500 men with mesothelioma, all of whom had been plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters or constructions workers. The team found that the vast majority of these patients had had occupational asbestos exposure.
However, very few had been around the fiber for all that long. In fact, just four men reported having worked around asbestos for more than five years.
For anyone who thinks they have been in contact with asbestos, however briefly, it is important to get regularly checked by a doctor. After all, the lag time between asbestos exposure and a diagnosis of mesothelioma can be deceptively long – often on the order of three or four decades.