Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Statistics show that there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year. Mesothelioma prevention is about eliminating the cause of the disease: asbestos. Most cases of mesothelioma are occupational, while non-occupational or secondary mesothelioma cases are not rare. Mesothelioma prevention should start with knowing the sources of asbestos and how to remove them.
Certain types of workers are considered to be at high risk for mesothelioma based on the nature of their occupation. The following workers are considered high risk:
- Bricklayers, dock workers, drywall contractors, electricians, drillers, miners, sheet metal workers, painters, fitters (exposure to asbestos in brakes and clutches) and building inspectors
- Occupations that include the manufacture of asbestos, such as fireproofing and plumbing; manufacture of gaskets, floor tiles, pipe linings and cement
- Workers in asbestos processing factories
- People working in shipyards, railway yards, oil refineries and the construction industry
For people who work in the occupations described above, make sure that the workplace regulations as defined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the prevention of mesothelioma are in place. Some asbestos fibers can adhere to hair, skin and clothing, and you can put your family at risk if you take them home. For mesothelioma prevention, federal laws now require workers to follow several precautions, including:
- Shower before leaving the workplace
- Keep clothes separate from work clothes in the workplace
- Change work clothes into regular clothes before leaving the workplace
- Washing work clothes at the workplace
Some studies have also shown that workers who smoke are more likely to develop mesothelioma than those who don’t.
Studies have shown that non-occupational exposure in public buildings, schools and homes also occurs as asbestos is used in building materials such as insulation and plumbing. Asbestos was mainly used in building materials and paint from the 1930s to the 1970s. For non-occupational mesothelioma prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a number of steps.
Asbestos was used in the production of roofs, clapboards, vinyl floor tiles, adhesives, stove cushions and hot water pipes. Homes built before the 1950s may have used more asbestos-containing materials. If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home, have samples of your building materials removed and lab tested by an asbestos expert.
Do not disturb asbestos materials. As a result, only fibrous materials are released into the air, which can be inhaled into the lungs. Do not wipe asbestos materials and do not sand, scrape or drill holes in materials that may contain asbestos. Contact an asbestos abatement or removal professional to remove asbestos-containing materials from your home.
If there are asbestos fibers on the floor or other surface of your home, never sweep or vacuum them, as they only cause fibers to become airborne. Contact an asbestos removal expert immediately for proper fiber removal.
Public buildings should take the same measures to prevent mesothelioma, such as having asbestos professionals sample, clean, and dispose of building materials.
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