Most Americans understand that there is a serious risk of asbestos exposure, and we have known for quite some time. In fact, the National Library of Medicine notes that we have research from the 1930s connecting asbestos exposure and cancer.
So, if we have all this history and research making this connection, why are people still getting sick from exposure? There are two primary reasons for this.
People continue to be exposed
Indeed, we have significantly curbed the use of asbestos in consumer and commercial products. In general, companies no longer use asbestos the way they used to. There are numerous regulations restricting or banning its use, but the fact is that we can still find it in plenty of materials today.
Some places we still see asbestos include:
- Products that must resist extreme temperatures
- Older products manufactured before around the 1980s
- Insulation products
- Automotive parts
Because asbestos is still in so many products, people can continue to experience exposure.
Symptoms can take decades to develop
Even if a person is currently not in an environment where asbestos exposure is a concern, they may have been decades ago. People who worked in industries like construction, manufacturing or firefighting have especially high risks of asbestos exposure.
It takes many years between exposure and diagnosis for reasons that researchers continue to explore. Because of the long latency period of mesothelioma, individuals may only now start noticing the signs of toxic exposure.
As noted by the Mayo Clinic, it can take 20 to 60 years for individuals to start experiencing:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Lumps under the skin on the chest
- Painful coughing
These symptoms can mimic other conditions, meaning doctors may need to first rule those out before making an official diagnosis. This process can also extend the time it takes between exposure and diagnosis.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses take a devastating toll on people, and these diagnoses can be shocking to patients and their families. Unfortunately, it is a reality for about 15,000 people per year. Those in this position should know they are not alone, and there are resources to help people navigate this difficult situation.t