Posted on September 28, 2022

October 4th — Part One: Prevent Asbestos Exposure 

October 11th — Part Two: Recognize High Risk Occupations

October 18th — Part Three: Understand the Warning Symptoms for Asbestos-Caused Diseases 

October 25th — Part Four: Finding a Center of Excellence for Treatment  

ADAO recommends to direct your medical questions to your primary care physician or your treatment team at a center of excellence. 

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. A 2013 National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) study found that firefighters are twice as likely to die of mesothelioma compared to the general population because they frequently enter burning structures that are contaminated with asbestos. 

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 kNØw 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.” Thank you for joining us and sharing this life-saving information during Health Literacy Month.

Linda Reinstein

Social Networks

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