Causes of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. If tiny asbestos particles float into the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed and can cause mesothelioma.

It can be difficult to figure out exactly where and how you were exposed to asbestos because it typically takes 15-30 years to develop symptoms after exposure. Exposure to asbestos also increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a non-cancerous, chronic lung ailment) and other cancers, such as those of the larynx or kidney.

The longer that you were exposed to asbestos and the higher the intensity increases your chances of having mesothelioma. However, it can take only one day of exposure to high amounts of asbestos to get the disease. Since the asbestos fibers are very thin, they can easily make their way through the smallest of airways inside the lungs and hence cannot be taken out through a cough or hard breath. These fibers penetrate deep into the lungs and settle on the pleura, the membrane around the lungs. After many years, they cause inflammation in the lungs, which leads to mesothelioma.

Everyone living on earth, at one point or another, might have been exposed to asbestos, either in the air they breathe, the water they drink, or from asbestos wastes lying all over the place. But most people exposed to asbestos in these ways seldom suffer from mesothelioma.

Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are those who have worked in an occupation where they were readily exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. There have also been cases of mesothelioma that were caused by secondary exposure to asbestos, which means that individuals lived with someone who worked around asbestos and the deadly particles came off of their clothing or hair.

Trades Exposed to Asbestos

Trades that typically exposed individuals to asbestos:

  • Asbestos product manufacturing (insulation, roofing, building, materials)
  • Automotive repair (brakes & clutches)
  • Construction/contractors
  • Maritime
  • Miners
  • Offshore rust removals
  • Oil refineries
  • Power plants
  • Railroads
  • Sand or abrasive manufacturers
  • Shipyards / ships / ship builders
  • Steel mills
  • Tile cutters

Asbestos Used In Occupations

Occupations that may have exposed individuals to asbestos:

  • Auto Mechanics
  • Boiler makers
  • Bricklayers
  • Building Inspectors
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Demolition workers
  • Drywallers
  • Electricians
  • Furnace Workers
  • Glazers
  • Grinders
  • Hod carriers
  • Insulators
  • Iron workers
  • Laborers
  • Longshoremen
  • Maintenance workers
  • Merchant marines
  • Millwrights
  • Operating Engineers
  • Painters
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Sand blasters
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Steam fitters
  • Tile setters
  • Welders
  • U.S. Navy veterans

Industrial Products Containing Asbestos

Since asbestos was such an excellent insulator and had other beneficial properties, it has been widely used in many industrial products and in the military.

Asbestos was used in:

  • Brake linings
  • Instruments
  • Meters
  • Panels
  • Gaskets
  • Insulating Materials
  • Packing Material
  • Prefabricated-forms
  • Tubes
  • Cables
  • Capacitors
  • Paper-dielectric capacitors
  • Mixes
  • Block
  • Insulation
  • Pipe covering
  • Adhesives
  • Insulation felts
  • Thermal materials
  • Deck covering materials
  • Refractory
  • Mortar
  • Aggregate mixtures
  • Rods
  • Valves
  • Boilers

Asbestos Used In Homes

It has also been used in products found in and around the home in:

  • Vintage asbestos snow (fake snow found on artificial Christmas trees)
  • Tiling
  • Insulation
  • Hairdryers
  • Toys (older car racing sets)
  • Children’s clay
  • Roofing
  • Automotive clutches, brakes and hood liners
  • Certain ironing boards
  • Fireproof gloves
  • Fireproofing materials
  • Stove-top pads
  • Textured paints
  • Artificial ashes and embers
  • Furnace ducts
  • Heat reflectors
  • Duct tape
  • Corrugated paper
  • Toasters
  • Pots, pans
  • Baby powder
  • Yarn
  • Millboard (used in garages, dry cleaning machines, etc.)

Was Smoking A Cause of Mesothelioma?

There is no evidence to prove that smoking is one of the causes of mesothelioma, as is the case with other types of lung cancers. Mesothelioma is a non-contagious disease and hence cannot be passed on to another person. It is not a hereditary disease as well. Family members of a person who suffered from mesothelioma will not inherit the disease.