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MESOTHELIOMA - The Asbestos Timebomb.
The one-time friend turned killer that was once such an indispensible, yet
unnoticed, part of our daily lives for so many centuries, is now a feared
enemy. It is Asbestos (from the Greek for 'inextinguishable') and is the
reason for thousands of global compensation claims by mesothelioma
lawyers against employers, manufacturers and processors of
asbestos-related products. Many asbestos workers, and those
unwitingly exposed to asbestos, have been given a mesothelioma
diagnosis for which there is no cure, maybe just a little temporary relief,
until the inevitable distressing death a few months or years after
Mesothelioma is a time bomb because it can be that less than a day's
exposure to asbestos dust is enough to produce mesothelioma, some
30-40 years later, when mesothelioma symptoms are first noticed.
Though most mesothelioma victims are men, because mainly they worked
in those industries, sometimes their wives and family too are innocent
sufferers from this disease, inhaling the asbestos dust shaken from their
husband's/fathers' clothing, or hair, at the end of the working day.
Whether the fault lies with manufacturers & employers (assuming they
knew of the dangers) or the employees (did everyone diligently use
respirator equipment and protective clothing, if it was supplied?), is
something for the mesothelioma lawyers, insurance companies and
courts to thrash out.
Meanwhile, asbestosis & mesothelioma victims are dying a painful and
inexorable death, before their cases can even come to court or a
settlement is reached. As there is no cure for mesothelioma or
asbestosis, all that can be done is to make the sufferer's plight as
comfortable as possible, before death finally brings mercyful relief.
Although various governments have introduced, albeit belatedly,
anti-asbestos legislation, sufferers find that in some cases the time limit
for claiming compensation is unrealistically short, given the long time
(30-40 years) before mesothelioma symptoms are first noticed. Many
victims are dying before they get a court verdict, or even before they get
to court. Unlike its Greek derivation, Mesothelioma and asbestosis victims
are not inextinguishable.
WHAT IS MESOTHELIOMA
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer in the fluid-filled sac between the
Mesothelium lining the lungs, or abdominal cavity or heart, and the body.
In a healthy person, the mesothelium secretes a fluid which lubricates
these organs, allowing them to expand, contract and easily slide over
neighbouring tissues. Fluid in excess of that required for lubrication is
removed through the blood & lymph system. In a person with
Mesothelioma, the asbestos fibres penetrate the organ, into the fluid sac,
producing cancerous cells which attack other cells, thickening the fluid,
causing pain, and difficulty with breathing. Peritoneal Mesothelioma and,
less commonly, Pericardial Mesothelioma, are not as common as the
pleural type, but just as deadly.
The Causes of Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural Mesothelioma, the most common form of mesiothelioma, is
caused, according to all known evidence, exclusively by inhalation of
asbestos fibres. These fibres are very thin & sharp enough to penetrate
the lining of the lung, entering the plural sac, thereby damaging the
mesothelium cells. Often, cancerous growth results, as described
above. Other factors also come into play, including the changes induced
in macrophages by their ingestion of asbestos particles. The asbestos
seems to stimulate the macrophage to produce free radicals, which then
affect DNA to induce cancerous cell behaviour. The chances of a
person in an asbestos-related environment developing lung cancer, are
said to be about 50 times increased if that person smokes, though there
is no evidence to show that smoking itself causes mesothelioma.
Ironically, one brand of cigarettes in the 1950's used asbestos in the filter
There are other factors too that can play a part, such as heredity,
general health and diet. Although not too much has been clincially proven
about these factors, as with all diseases, the better the person's health
the better their chances of not catching a disease.
The History of Asbestos. It is probably not generally known that
asbestos has been around since 4000 BC, when it was used in lamp
wicks and candles. Interestingly, it was also used in the cloth wrapping
of Egyptian mummies. Maybe this is the real origin of 'The Curse of The
Mummy' stories; grave robbers, and maybe Egyptologists, could expect
to get their just desserts! Clothing made from asbestos was highly prized
in ancient times to wrap the bodies of Kings, so that their ashes would
not mix with the earth or other contaminants during cremation, and it is
said the Romans simply threw their asbestos napkins into a fire to
cleanse and purify them.
Asbestos, a type of silica, is mined from three main types of metamorphic
rock:- Chrysotile (white asbestos), Amosite (brown asbestos) and
Crocodilite (blue asbestos). Other asbestos bearing rocks such as
Tremolite, Anthophyllite and Actinolite are not in such common use but
could still be found in some construction work, talcum powders and
vermiculite. During the Middle Ages there does not appear to be much
evidence of asbestos use; they probably had other problems, like
recurring plagues and crusades, to contend with.
The fact that asbestos workers developed respiratory illnesses, and
died young, was known as far back as Roman times when Pliny the
Elder commented that asbestos workers seemed to have many health
problems, advising against buying asbestos-workings slaves as they
"died young". Obviously, there were no mesothelioma lawyers around
then! The deleterious effects of asbestos, in modern industrial times,
have been recorded as far back as the start of the 18th Century but little
notice was paid by factory owners & Governments to the plight of
asbestos workers - labour was cheap and life even cheaper; nothing
should stand in the way of the sacred cows of Industrial Progress and
the profits of industrialists and politicians.
That it took until the 1970s before more stricter legislation to restrict its
use and safeguarded workers was drawn up, is scandalous. A
charitable reason for this inertia may be that asbestos had become so
widely used in almost every aspect of our everyday lives, delivering
such tremendous benefits, that there was such a reluctance to finally
admit that something so useful could also be so deadly. People who have
expounded the virtues, and made a lot of money out of, asbestos are
hardly likely to suddenly throw up their hands and admit to being wrong.
The alternative, less charitable, explanation can only be that greed and
profit were more important than employees' health.
There are many ex-asbestos industry workers who are living time
bombs, not knowing if the deadly fibres have affected their health. As
employers & governments have reluctantly been forced to legislate to
compensate workers with Mesothelioma, there needs to be greater
awareness of sufferers plight.
MRSA meet their match.
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