New statistics show asbestos illnesses aren't going away

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Given the history of asbestos use in Ohio and across the country, it may not be surprising when someone over the age of 80 receives the diagnosis of mesothelioma or another lung disease. Such illnesses, often incurable, associated with exposure to asbestos develop slowly over the years, sometimes showing symptoms only after 30 years or more. Still, an undeniable connection exists between cancers and industries where asbestos exposure is common.

With the scientific evidence making that grim connection decades ago, you would think the cases of mesothelioma would begin to decline as manufacturers reduce their dependency on asbestos in their products. However, recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that this is not the case.

Who is at risk?

If your parent worked in a high-risk industry -- such as insulation, construction, power plants or chemical plants -- a diagnosis of mesothelioma may not come as a shock. However, did you know that you and your other family members are also at risk for developing the deadly cancer?

Do you remember hugging your parent as he or she came home from work? Did you help launder your parent's work clothes? If your loved one carried asbestos fibers home on clothing, skin or hair, he or she may have unknowingly exposed the rest of the household.

In fact, the CDC's latest report reveals that, in addition to a rise in mesothelioma cases in people over age 85, another 682 people between the ages of 25 and 44 died of the disease in the past 15 years. Advocates of an asbestos ban hope these numbers will prompt lawmakers to realize the urgency for banning the substance. Analysts of the data fear that the numbers will continue to rise as exposure to asbestos affects those doing maintenance, demolition and remediation in structures containing asbestos.

Why isn't asbestos banned?

In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency attempted to ban the use of asbestos in the U.S. However, stronger agencies that opposed the ban appealed the action, leaving the EPA with little power except to limit a few of the uses of asbestos. As a result, products containing the deadly substance remain in use, and other countries routinely import asbestos-laden goods to the U.S., potentially placing you and your family in danger.

If mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness has affected you or a loved one, you may feel that the diagnosis leaves you with no hope. However, medical advances continue to bring optimism to those suffering with these cancers.

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