Part One: Prevent Asbestos Exposure 

Part Two: Recognize High Risk Occupation

Part Three: Understand the Early Warning Symptoms for Asbestos-Caused Diseases 

Part Four: Finding a Center of Excellence for Treatment

Important Notice: ADAO does not make medical diagnoses, recommend treatment or answer specific patient questions. Specific concerns should be addressed directly by your treating physician.

The asbestos issue is not a thing of the past. It continues to this day” — Retired U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak

October is Health Literacy Month, and at the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), that means driving our prevention initiatives with an even stronger force. Everyone should know the “Irrefutable Facts” about how to protect your loved ones from asbestos exposure, because until researchers find a cure, the only way to stop asbestos-caused diseases is to prevent asbestos exposure. In fact, ADAO believes so fervently in prevention that we’ve built the website kNØw Asbestos, a one-stop resource guide for you to learn about asbestos and what to do about it. Thanks to weak chemical safety laws in the U.S., asbestos is still legal and lethal in our country and you may have it in your home, school or office.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NIH), people who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are repeatedly exposed, most often “from a job where staff work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.” With asbestos fibers contained in a range of building and construction materials, the risk of “substantial environmental contact” from these fibers becoming disturbed and released into the air is continual. Since the 1940s, NIH reports millions of workers in the United States have been exposed.

ADAO recommends familiarizing yourself with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “Asbestos Fact Sheet” about asbestos exposure in the workplace.

Occupations with a high-risk of asbestos exposure include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Workers involved in the manufacture of asbestos products 
  • Asbestos mining and milling
  • Construction trades (including insulators, sheet metal workers, electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters, and carpenters)
  • Power plant workers
  • Boilermakers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Firefighters
  • Teachers
  • Veterans

There is a very long latency period between exposure and the onset of symptoms, which typically does not occur until 10 – 50 years after exposure. NIH reports that investigators have found those who develop asbestos diseases can do so both after long and short exposures. You can also show symptoms as an adult if, as a child, you were exposed to a parent who came home with asbestos dust on their clothing. Early symptoms are generally vague and can be confused with other illnesses, such as pneumonia. We will address early warning symptoms in next week’s Part 3 installment of this Health Literacy Month series. If you are concerned that you might be experiencing asbestos disease symptoms, talk to your doctor about possible occupational or environmental asbestos exposure. Only a doctor can properly diagnose asbestos-related diseases.

To access more information about symptoms, see the National Cancer Institute’s “Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk” Fact Sheet or visit ADAO’s kNOw Asbestos site for more resources. Visit the ADAO website again next week for Part Three of our Health Literacy Month blog: Early Warning Symptoms.

As we say at ADAO, “Hear Asbestos. Think Prevention.”

Linda Reinstein

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