It is a disease that kills nearly 3,000 Americans each year and takes years to develop within its victims. Symptoms vary from fatigue and weight loss to coughing, shortness of breath and blood clots. While other illnesses lately seem to garner more attention, this one often does not as many people throughout the U.S. have little knowledge or awareness of it. We want to change that.
We are talking about mesothelioma, a disease caused by exposure to asbestos. Sept. 26 marks the annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Established in 2004, this special day promotes education, understanding as well as efforts to raise funds for research to combat this usually deadly disease. Victims of the disease are typically people who have frequent work-related exposure to asbestos.
Inhaling asbestos fibers causes the disease
As part of Mesothelioma Awareness Day, people are encouraged to wear blue and participate in virtual events due to COVID-19. Mesothelioma survivors have compromised immune systems and thus are more prone to getting the virus.
Here is some basic information about mesothelioma and asbestos that can educate victims, the families of victims as well as the general American population:
- Asbestos is a natural mineral with heat-resistant fibers woven into or used for products such as cloth, cement and building materials. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers become trapped inside the body and cause cancer.
- Although asbestos remains dangerous, the mineral still is not banned in the U.S. More than 50 nations banned asbestos. They include Argentina, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa, Japan and most European countries, including Germany, France, United Kingdom and Italy.
- Each year, about 3,000 people receive diagnoses for the disease.
- Workers in blue-collar jobs or backgrounds in the military with regular exposure to asbestos are at risk of getting mesothelioma. They may work in areas such as manufacturing, construction, firefighting, chemical refinery, military service and shipbuilding.
- Victims often are men older than 65. Symptoms do not appear until 20 to 50 years after initial exposure.
- People diagnosed with mesothelioma may live for about a year or two.
- Family members of workers who handle asbestos face the disease due to secondary exposure to the fibers. Since the fibers attach to workers’ clothing, they also come into the home.
Americans and the rest of the world must understand the dangers, tragedies and heartache caused by mesothelioma. Education and awareness of this disease are the first steps toward finding a cure.