What Is Asbestos?

To the best of everyone’s knowledge the only thing that causes mesothelioma is the naturally occurring mineral, asbestos, which was used in a wide assortment of products, including brake pads, roofing shingles, insulation, and more prior to the 1980’s.

Asbestos is a batch of fibrous minerals that can be found in both rock and soil. No one thought much about this particular mineral until they learned that it was resistant to both fire and several types of chemicals. At that point, it became a popular addition to building materials.

Asbestos fibers are small, much smaller in width than a single human hair. When these fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lining lungs or heart and if ingested they can become embedded in the lining of the abdomen.

After several years, the cells around the asbestos fibers develop genetic mutations that leads to the formation of tumors, what we now to to be mesothelioma. A very rare and aggressive form of cancer that rarely gets diagnosed early enough for curative treatment to be an option.

The History of Asbestos

In the United States, asbestos mining commenced in the 1900’s. Before it can be used, the freshly mined asbestos must go through a refining process. During the Industrial Revolution, asbestos was used in just about everything that needed to be heated or insulated, including pipe and fireboxes.

It wasn’t long before asbestos was being used by railroad companies, car factories, and shipyards. With each year that passed, the industrial industry demanded more and more asbestos.

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the United States realized the heavy use of asbestos was creating terminal health issues and started to regulate its use.

Little Known Facts About Asbestos

  • From the Great Depression until the 1980’s asbestos was used in many common building materials. It can still be found on construction sites.
  • Using it isn’t a new concept. Evidence suggests that as far back as 3,000 BC, Egyptians were using asbestos and even suspect the mineral of creating respiratory illnesses
  • It’s a naturally occurring mineral that can be easily and cheaply mined

Where Is Asbestos Found?

The most common places to find asbestos is in old buildings, however, it is important to note that while asbestos isn’t used as frequently as it once was, it is still being used. Today you can find it in:

  • Tiles
  • Pipe and housing insulation
  • Several types of Roofing shingles
  • Some Paper products
  • Auto parts

Additional Asbestos Information

Learn More About Asbestos

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Asbestos Exposure

Which industries used asbestos? Find out if you were at risk of exposure.

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Asbestos and Cancer

Find out the correlation between cancer and asbestos.

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Types of Asbestos

Although restrictions and regulations have been put in place to help control the use of asbestos, the mineral is still widely used in the United States. As we learn more about asbestos, we’re learning that some types of the mineral are more deadly than others.

The two main categories of asbestos are serpentine fibers that have a curly shape and which our bodies can easily expel, and amphibole fibers which are straight and sharp enough to become embedded within our bodies. In most cases, the amphibole fibers are what can lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis.

There are also six asbestos subtypes which are used in products. The three subtypes humans most frequently come into contact with include:

  • Chrysotile asbestos or “white asbestos” is the asbestos most people are familiar with, the fibers are the serpentine shaped. It can be found in insulation, car gaskets, car brake components, and cement.
  • Amosite asbestos or “brown asbestos” is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous types of asbestos. It has been used to create ceiling tiles, protective fire gear/equipment/material, insulation, and cement sheets. Not only is it composed of dangerous amphibole fibers this form of asbestos is considered dangerously friable and delicate.
  • Crocidolite asbestos or “blue asbestos” contains the amphibole fibers that leads to mesothelioma. It’s not commonly used these days. This form of asbestos was found in both South Africa and Australia. Neither country mines for Crocidolite asbestos due to the health problems miners suffered.

Similar Toxic Fibers That Can Trigger Mesothelioma

There are some toxic substances that can affect the body in a way that’s quite similar to asbestos. They include:

  • Vermiculite which consists of shiny flakes and is popular among construction site managers and gardeners. It’s lightweight and resists heat. The only time vermiculite is dangerous is when it’s mixed with something else. By itself, vermiculate is harmless. There have been instances of vermiculite being contaminated by asbestos when the two minerals are mined close together. Libby Montana has the highest recorded amount of asbestos-tainted vermiculite.
  • Erionite found in volcanoes is a hazardous substance. Researchers were surprised to learn that it’s 800 times more carcinogenic than asbestos. Erionite is found in rock, soil, and gravel and is no longer mined. Prior to its ban, Erionite was used to build homes in the Western region of the United States.
  • Taconite is a sedimentary rock that contains bits of iron that was heavily used to create metal in the years following WWII. Shipbuilders and construction worker were exposed to Taconite which was found in many sheets of metal and steel beams. Taconite has a chemical makeup that closely resembles the chemical makeup of asbestos. It’s found mainly in Minnesota and the Great Lakes Region.

Anyone who has ever had a great deal of contact with asbestos needs to make arrangements to be regularly examined by a specialist who will be able to detect early warning signs and help you choose a treatment. The prognosis for Stage 1 mesothelioma is significantly higher than the prognosis for stage 3 or 4.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the first thing you need to do is see a highly respected specialist for a second opinion. Not only will the specialist confirm or refute your first doctor’s opinion, but they will also be able to explain the various treatment options and clinical trials you should consider.

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