What Are the Risk Factors, or Who Gets Mesothelioma?

People that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have, at some point in their lives, worked on jobs or been in an environment where they were exposed to asbestos fibers. Factory workers. Ship builders. Brake repair workers. Construction workers. Asbestos miners. And the list goes on and on. As Sue Vento tells us in 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma, there have been countless individuals unknowingly exposed while serving in the military or home remodeling projects.

In the past many of the people I have had the privilege of speaking with have worked in the asbestos industry or have had exposure to asbestos through household exposure from a family member who worked with or around asbestos.

But to quote Bob Dylan, “… the times, they are a-changing.” The number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, with no known occupational exposure, is increasing. Those numbers include victims younger in age and women.

I grew up in the Midwest, where everyone thinks they can do it themselves. When I was ten years old we lived in a little 1957 three-bedroom ranch home where the kitchen wasn’t large enough to accommodate our growing family. My Dad and his buddies decided to knock out a wall and expand the kitchen dining area into my bedroom.

It was a disaster! There was dust from the drywall flying everywhere as they used hammers and saws to cut through the wall. Their plan was to take down the whole wall and move the kitchen cabinets and the sink to the outside wall. Luckily, the plumbing for the sink stopped them from bringing down the whole house. Being the oldest and only girl, it was my job to sweep up the mess, made not only by the wrecking crew, but by my little brothers who constructed a fort in the living room with the big chunks of drywall.

I’m sure that if one stops to reflect upon life, there are probably a number of times one was exposed to asbestos. From the construction boom after WWII to the blanket pajamas and retardant BBQ aprons worn at the backyard parties. It was the “wonder years,” where life was good and everything was made of asbestos.

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