Thanks to bills and regulations passed between the mid-70s and ‘80s, contemporary machine setters seldom come into contact with asbestos so it’s unlikely they’ll ever develop mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the machine setters who worked prior to and during the 1970s. These workers were exposed to a great deal of asbestos which was not only found in the tools and equipment they used every day, but also in the protective clothing they wore.
From the 1920s to the early 1980s, most of the tools and equipment machine setters used was coated with a protective layer of asbestos which resisted the heat and fire generated by the work the machine setters did. The problem was that the constant grinding and cutting released clouds of asbestos particles into the air. Machine setters inhaled these fibers, and several decades later, the fibers created serious health problems.
Who Is at Risk?
Although all machine setters who worked prior to the 1980s are at risk for developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses, some are at a higher risk than others. The ones who should be the most concerned about their health and who should encourage their doctors to perform early screenings for asbestos-related illnesses are the machine setters who worked as finishers since they were typically responsible for grinding the metal. This part of the job released the most asbestos into the air, allowing it to be unwittingly inhaled or ingested.
Reports indicate that the maintenance crews who handled repair and clean up in the areas where the machine setters did their precision cutting also have a high risk of developing asbestos-related health problems.
Just because a machine setter has felt healthy all their life doesn’t mean they won’t develop an asbestos- related illness. The latency period for these diseases ranges from 20 to 50 years. Factors that can influence how long it takes the machinist to start developing symptoms include how much asbestos they inhaled, what part of the body the fibers adhered to, if they’re a smoker, and the machinist’s overall health.
Risk of Developing Mesothelioma
Machine setters are at risk for developing one of three types of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma cancer is directly linked to asbestos and is caused when tumors form over embedded asbestos particles in the lining of the lungs, heart, or stomach.
Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lungs and is the most common type of mesothelioma; pericardial mesothelioma tumors form on the pericardium (around the heart); and peritoneal mesothelioma forms on the stomach lining. Peritoneal mesothelioma is very rare, though those who worked around asbestos day in and day out without a protective mask are more likely to develop it.
Doctors use radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy to treat all three types of mesothelioma. Most patients chose to enter at least one experimental trial while they fight the disease in hopes of increasing their chances of survival.
The best chance for a longer life expectancy, however, is early detections. The sooner the cancer is discovered, the sooner doctors can take steps to eradicate the cancerous cells. If you believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos, tell your doctor. Your doctor will regularly monitor your symptoms and provide you with treatment options.