This past weekend I had the honor of attending the Army- Navy football game. Although Army won, it was an experience of a lifetime. As we observed American finest young men and women in the prime of their young lives, healthy, it seemed like a foreign thought that some of them in the future could become victims of mesothelioma by simply choosing to serve their country.
According to the World Health Organization web site, www.iarc.fr there are about 125 million people in the world exposed to asbestos in the workplace. All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. Approximately half of the deaths from occupational cancer are estimated to be caused by asbestos.
How did asbestos become one of the most significant environmental carcinogens on our planet? How does exposure to asbestos from many years ago cause people to be diagnosed with deadly cancers and others to develop pulmonary diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, malignant mesothelioma of the pleura and peritoneum, and others exposed to asbestos not develop diseases?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that is in rock and soil. There are six major forms of asbestos: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophylite, tremolite and actinolite. “White” asbestos is chrysotile, “blue” asbestos is crocidolite. These two forms are the primary asbestos found, with chrysotile being by far the most prevalent.
The history of using asbestos as a fire retardant goes back centuries. At some points in recent history asbestos was used in different forms for food and many building materials. Asbestos continues to be used today in many products. Although not banned in the United States, it is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Exposure to asbestos can cause cancer. Approximately 33% of malignant mesothelioma victims are veterans of the armed services.
On this late Fall afternoon looking at the future leaders of our military, we are proud of these young men and women, and wish them nothing but the best. The best does not include exposure to asbestos while they are doing their job.