"I was wondering if I could ask you a question" is how this begins. Of course, in this day and age of the internet creating an atmosphere of mistrust, I hesitantly replied, putting my faith out there that this wouldn't be some sort of indecent proposal or scammer. It wasn't.
It was a request from a man named Cameron, who's wife (Heather) had been diagnosed, received treatment, and overcome pleural mesothelioma (lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure). He and his wife, who is now a cancer survivor like me, are doing a campaign to increase awareness of the completely preventable disease. So, after reading his email, looking at his blog, and reading information on the mesothelioma.com website, my eyes watered and my heart felt heavy. How could I not do my part in increasing awareness. I don't know how many people really pay attention to my blog, but like Cameron said, maybe putting the information out there will help save a life.
Mesothelioma is caused by the exposure to and inhalation of asbestos particles. The use of asbestos throughout history is overwhelming and as I read about it, I couldn't believe what places and products could contain asbestos. I read that in Ancient Rome, they lined their suits of armour in asbestos, that more recently it was used in every day products like toasters and hair dryers, and of course in homes, public buildings, schools, and ships up until the 1970's. The list of where it was used is endless, really, and the scary part is that according to the mesothelioma.com website, in some cases, even though it's a banned product and known carcinogen, it is still being used today.
Exposure to asbestos doesn't mean an immediate cancer diagnosis. In thousands, and probably millions, of cases, the exposure took place decades ago and only now is showing up as cancer in those who were exposed. There are 3 types of mesothelioma: pleural (lungs), peritoneal (abdomen) and pericardial (cardiac). The treatments vary widely and have been known to show great promise in patients diagnosed with these diseases. Of course, as with all cancers, early diagnosis and early, comprehensive treatment is key. You can read all about the types of mesothelioma here, so I won't go on repeating their information, except that I would like to point out possible points of exposure that you may not have been aware of. Exposure to asbestos doesn't mean a 100% chance that you will develop cancer, but it does increase the risk.
Military Exposure: Asbestos was used across all branches of the military. Chances are if you worked in the military you were sitting amongst or sleeping with the enemy all along. It was used on a wide variety of ships, aircraft carriers, submarines, battle ships, etc. It was found on military bases in military vehicles, aircraft and ships. It could even be found in galley kitchens.
Commercial and Industrial Exposure: Factory workers are/were at high risk for developing mesothelioma. It was commonly used in job sites such as oil refineries, power plants, steel mills, chemical plants, etc. It was used as a insurance for fire proofing building materials and clothing. Chances were that if you had to wear fire resistant clothing or gloves, you could have been wearing asbestos. I had no idea it was used in clothing. That boggles my mind.
Commercial Product Exposure: Asbestos was used in many commercial products, especially those that would be considered building materials. Insulation, roofing materials, siding, joint compound, flooring, ceiling tiles, etc. If you are currently a DIYer or ever involved in renovating an old house/building, you may have been exposed to asbestos particles. I had no idea it was in so many different commercial products. How many times have I not worn proper protective clothing or masks when sanding joint compound! That one's particularly scary because that dust goes EVERYWHERE.
Second Hand Exposure: Because particles can go everywhere, it gets on clothing and can be transferred from site to site that way. A person working in a place with asbestos can get it on their hair or clothing and without thinking can bring those particles home with them. They can be transferred when someone else goes to put the clothes in the washing machine, or washes with a washcloth. They could have had asbestos on their shoes, and that could get all over the floor. Unknowingly, family members of those who have had asbestos exposure could also become exposed.
So this is definitely something that people need to be aware of. I send out many thanks to Cameron for contacting me and opening my own eyes to the matter. The next time you go to renovate something old, think twice and get it tested for asbestos first. If you have asbestos, hire a professional asbestos extraction team to come in and get rid of it properly so no one will be at risk of it again. If you're thinking of buying an older home (built before 1970 at least) get it checked for asbestos first. These are just a few warnings, please educate yourself on the matter and go read the mesothelioma.com website. Educate and be aware, for your sake and the sake of others around you.