Pennsylvania Reports 1,700 Mesothelioma Deaths During the Last Decade
September is Mesothelioma Awareness Month, and in Pennsylvania, families of some 1,700 victims of the dreaded form of cancer are pausing to think of their loved ones, gone too soon due to exposure to toxic asbestos.
According to statistics reported by the Titusville (PA) Herald, Pennsylvania has the third-highest rate of mesothelioma of all 50 states, trailing only California and Florida. During the last ten years in the Commonwealth, a total of 1,711 people mesothelioma deaths – mostly men – have been reported.
The high rate of the disease in Pennsylvania – concentrated mostly in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas and in additional locations where mining is prevalent – is largely due to the massive amount of industry in the state, particularly near its two major cities.
Factories, steel mills, textile mills, chemical refineries, and mines were ripe with asbestos materials for decades, until about 1980, when rules about asbestos use finally came into play.
Scores of workers over several generations regularly inhaled asbestos fibers, which would become lodged in the area of their lungs and could eventually cause cancerous tumors to form.
Usually, mesothelioma not a disease that appears quickly. It takes decades for the disease to become apparent, so individuals who worked with the material in the latter part of the 20th century are just now being diagnosed.
Sadly, though the disease’s appearance is slow at first, it’s quick to kill. Most victims never make it to that magic five-year point and many don’t survive more than 12 months after their diagnosis.
In Titusville, not far from Erie, killer asbestos has reared its ugly head a number of times. For decades, the oil industry was king there and many individuals encountered asbestos materials while working in that industry, including at a number of refineries.
The iron and steel industries also dominated the small town for much of the 20th century. Hence, many were exposed to the asbestos products that were once abundantly used in those industries.
The region’s school district has also struggled with asbestos in its public schools and even the town’s old Moose Lodge had a massive asbestos problem, which delayed its demolition for five years until the town could afford to foot the bill to remove it properly.
Pennsylvania victims of mesothelioma come from a variety of walks of life these days and include people of all ages and of both sexes.
Some were directly affected by exposure on the job while others have suffered from secondary exposure, caused by being in contact with someone else who was exposed.
For example, wives of steel workers or miners who regularly washed asbestos-covered clothes have been known to develop mesothelioma due to this indirect type of exposure.
Chances are, the experts say, the number of meso victims in Pennsylvania won’t begin to decline until about 2020, and doctors still warn that the material is still out there, particularly in old homes and other structures that haven’t been renovated in the decades since asbestos use was essentially halted.