Why Did I Get Mesothelioma?
People who have mesothelioma often ask, “Why did this happen to me?” The answer is nearly always the same – asbestos exposure.
In the U.S., onset of mesothelioma is typically tied to exposure to asbestos fibers, which is a naturally occurring mineral. Since the 1920s, it has been a well-known fact that asbestos is a carcinogen, meaning that it causes human cancers. Despite knowing this, many companies still made and used asbestos-containing products, and some still do today.
For decades, thermal insulation materials were made using asbestos. It was not until the mid-1970s that asbestos-containing insulation was still widely used. In fact, many commercial and residential buildings still contain high levels of asbestos today. When disturbed, those building materials release the fibers, which are inhaled, causing cancer to develop.
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Occupations typically associated with the onset of mesothelioma later in life include:
Power plant workers
Sailors (Navy & Merchant Marine)
Sheet metal workers/Welders
For example, even military personnel may have come into contact with asbestos while serving our country. Service members may have been exposed to asbestos in shipbuilding and decommissioning of ships. Those who work in the construction industry may have been exposed to asbestos prior to the mid-1980s. Those involved with asbestos in these industries, among others, are at a much higher risk for developing asbestos-related diseases, including pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. While the usual length of exposure leading to cancer is lengthy, some who had short but intense exposure may also develop mesothelioma.
Even those who did not work in these specific industries can develop mesothelioma. An example of non-occupational exposure includes household members who develop the disease from simply washing the clothing of those who worked with asbestos.
What is unique to asbestos-related diseases is the long latency period between the exposure to asbestos and when a person becomes sick. Mesothelioma, for example, has a latency period between 15 and 50 or more years although the typical latency period is typically between 34 and 40 years. What this means is that even if you were exposed to asbestos decades ago, you can develop mesothelioma today.