Nearly 20 million people will develop Mesothelioma in their lifetime due to exposure to asbestos
For over forty years workers’ health and safety groups have been fighting to ban asbestos in the United States and throughout the world. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been proven to cause substantial harm, even death to workers. Only 30% of countries have outright banned asbestos even after it was proven to cause mesothelioma, a deadly disease that has a one year mortality rate of nearly 64%.
History of Asbestos
For many years, asbestos was used in building construction mainly for its fire retardant properties. Internal structures were coated with asbestos fibers making them almost fire proof. It was not until many years later that the dangers of using asbestos began to surface. Materials containing asbestos are easily damaged and causes the microscopic, fibers to become airborne. Inhaling or ingesting these fibers, cause serious damage to the body, eventually developing into cancer or other diseases.
Though the first official case of a worker’s death stemming from asbestos exposure was in 1924, it would not be until 1976 before Congress would take action by passing the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce asbestos exposure. In 1989, Congress went one step further and outright banned the use of asbestos. The ban was subsequently overturned, but asbestos use has been limited to less than 1% of the overall product. In spite of their good intentions, workers are still at risk from asbestos and an estimated 20 million people will develop mesothelioma within their lifetime.
Asbestos Exposure At Work
Though the United States has limited asbestos use, those in the construction industry are especially still at risk for exposure. Asbestos is still commonly used in cement, insulation, caulking, and roofing shingles. It’s estimated that over 1 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos-containing materials each year and according to the NIOSH work-related lung disease report, nearly 15% of all malignant mesothelioma deaths in 1999 were workers in the construction industry.
Shipyard workers are also at high risk for developing mesothelioma due to a high exposure to asbestos. During WWII as America was building warships as fast as they could, asbestos became a key ingredient, finding use in gaskets and within boiler components. Nearly 4 million individuals working in naval yards or on ships during World War II were exposed to asbestos. However, construction and shipyard workers are not the only ones with an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma. Others include firefighters, mechanics, plant workers, railroad workers, sheet metal workers, hairdressers and many more. More information on what industries pose a greater risk for mesothelioma and occupational asbestos exposure can be found here.
Recently, reconstruction was halted at the Schiller Power Plant in Portsmouth, NH when OSHA received an anonymous tip that workers exposure to asbestos and mercury. OSHA quickly responded to the Manaford Brothers Inc employee who tipped them off. Manaford was then required to “immediately investigate the allegations and make any necessary correction.” Unscrupulous employers do not care about the health and welfare of their employees, they only care about reducing their costs and increasing their profits. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that our employers are following OSHA regulations for asbestos exposure.
This year, September 26th has been designated as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
On Mesothelioma Awareness Day, groups like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) are working to get people involved in the discussion, hosting a Twitter Chat on September 26th to discuss asbestos and raise awareness of this rare disease. Join in and spread the word to help advocate for a ban on asbestos in the United States and around the world.
Please use the Twitter hashtag #ENDmeso