Mesothelioma is a cancer that originates in the mesothelium, or the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. Mesothelioma is an exceptionally rare cancer. In any given year, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 diagnosed cases of mesothelioma. The only known cause is exposure to asbestos.
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned the use of nearly all products containing asbestos, for decades, asbestos was commonly used in a large number of industrial and household products. For instance, asbestos was used in floor tiles, paper products, shingles, heat-resistant fabrics and a host of other materials. Until the 1990s, asbestos was used in brake pads.
Asbestos was used in so many products because of its insulating and fire-retardant properties. When products containing asbestos are disturbed, asbestos fibers will become airborne. Any person in the midst of asbestos fibers will breathe in these fibers. The asbestos fibers will then lodge in the lungs or elsewhere in the body. Asbestos is known to create a number of other diseases in addition to mesothelioma, including asbestosis and lung cancer.
I Worked Around Asbestos Decades Ago. Why Do I Have Mesothelioma Now?
Asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, are unlike other diseases in that they have an extremely long latency period. The latency period refers to the time between exposure to a harmful substance and the time when someone is actually infected with the disease. People with mesothelioma were usually exposed to asbestos anywhere from 20 to 50 years before their symptoms presented themselves. Therefore, if you worked in an environment where you were exposed to asbestos in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, you may only now show symptoms of this disease.