What causes mesothelioma?
Exposure to asbestos is the link to the development of mesothelioma. People who end up with this disease usually have had some type of previous exposure to asbestos. How this works is not fully understood. It is thought that asbestos fibers are inhaled and first travel through the upper air passages, which include the throat, the trachea (windpipe), and the large bronchi (large breathing tubes of the lungs). These airways are lined with mucus, and therefore most of the fibers are cleared from these upper airways by sticking to this mucus and being coughed up or swallowed. When the fibers continue to travel and reach the small airways (the alveoli), the body’s immune system is able to surround, engulf, and remove the smaller fibers by a process known as phagocytosis.
The large, long, thin fibers cannot be cleared as easily and may eventually reach the pleura (the lining of the lung and the chest wall), where they may irritate and injure the cells and lead to the development of calcium containing platelike structures on the pleural lining (pleural plaques), fibrosis (scar tissue formation), or mesothelioma. These same asbestos fibers can also damage cells in the lung itself, which can lead to asbestosis (scar tissue in the lung) and/or lung cancer. Patients with these pleural plaques seem to be at highest risk for developing mesothelioma
Causes and Symptoms Mesothelioma NDTV from What Causes Mesothelioma, source:ndtv.press
Can mesothelioma be prevented?
The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to decrease one’s exposure to asbestos in the workplace, at home, and in the environment. The federal government is responsible for developing regulations that deal with asbestos exposure in the workplace. The agency that issues these regulations is known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers are required to follow these regulations, and therefore workers who are concerned about asbestos exposure should be discussing these concerns with their employers or union. Also, employees should be using all protective equipment provided to them by their employers and following recommended safety procedures and practices while at work. If you are exposed to asbestos in the workplace, you should be aware of the potential of bringing the fibers home on your clothes, skin, and hair. It is best to change your clothes and shower at work if at all possible. If not, then it is important to do this immediately upon arriving home, which will limit the amount of exposure to others. Remove your clothes and put them in the washing machine as soon as possible.
Don’t forget! Asbestos is associated with lung cancer too! Many studies have shown that the combination of smoking and exposure to asbestos is particularly hazardous. The risk of lung cancer is greatly increased in asbestos-exposed individuals who smoke. However, smoking in the absence of asbestos exposure has not been associated with the development of mesothelioma. Nevertheless, did you know that certain cigarette filters were constructed from asbestos fibers? Fortunately, this brand, Kents, is no longer on the market. Because of the combined effect of smoking and asbestos exposure, it is important for anyone who has ever been exposed to asbestos, or who suspects that he or she may have been exposed to the fibers, to quit smoking, or not to start. People who have been exposed to asbestos should also get regular physical exams and should seek prompt medical treatment for any respiratory illnesses.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of minerals that have been mined and used in different industries since the late 1800s. It is an extremely poor conductor of heat and does not conduct electricity, and therefore it has been widely used as an insulator. The flexible
asbestos fibers are woven after being separated into thin threads. The fibers tend to break easily, and the dust that is formed from them breaking can float in the air and stick to clothes. The fibers can also be inhaled or swallowed and can result in serious health problems, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. There are six types of asbestos: amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, tremolite, and chrysotile. The first five types are called amphibole asbestos, and they all have needlelike fibers. Chrysotile has a different texture, composition, and behavior than amphibole asbestos. Although some findings suggest that amphibole asbestos is more cancer causing than chrysotile, the topic remains controversial. Recently, other types of mined minerals have been found to be associated with asbestos, including vermiculite and taconite. Vermiculite has been used in insulation, and recently there has been great concern that it can be associated with mesothelioma. Vermiculite is also mixed into soil to lighten it and make it more porous, for gardening. Vermiculite mining was performed in Libby, Montana, and the number of mesothelioma cases reported in that community has increased significantly. Moreover, many homes across the nation have used vermiculite for insulation.