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Asbestos Exposure Continues to This Day

asbestos mine in PennsylvaniaThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released their 12th report on carcinogenic substances, adding eight more chemical and biological agents, making a total of 240 substances which could have links to cancer. The Report on Carcinogens is a congressionally mandated, science based public health document prepared by the HHS Secretary by the National Toxicology Program.

The eight new additions include “the industrial chemical formaldehyde and a botanical known as aristolochic acids… listed as known human carcinogens. Six other substances — captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form), certain inhalable glass wool fibers, o-nitrotoluene, riddelliine, and styrene — are added as substances that are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.”

Asbestos, which was first listed in 1980 in the First Annual Report on Carcinogens, is listed on page 53 of the report, as a “known human carcinogen.”   The report states, “Because asbestos products were used so widely, the entire U.S. population potentially is exposed to some degree; however, the potential for exposure continues to decline, because asbestos mining has stopped, and asbestos products are being eliminated from the market.

The report also states that they majority of risk associated with mesothelioma today comes from “asbestos materials in building and vehicle brake linings, demolition of buildings with asbestos insulation or fireproofing , people who live near asbestos-containing waste sites or asbestos-related industries (if they use asbestos-containing products), landfills which can potentially release asbestos into the air, or people who live and work in deteriorating buildings with asbestos insulation or during or after poorly performed asbestos removal.”

Additionally, the report describes the potential of exposure for family members within a household as well, “Families of asbestos workers potentially were exposed to high fiber levels from contaminated clothing brought home for laundering”, and that, “people living in households with asbestos workers were found to have significantly elevated lung burden of asbestos, often in the same range as found in individuals occupationally exposed to asbestos, such as shipyard workers.”

Occupational exposure still occurs today among workers who use asbestos end products, such as asbestos insulation workers, brake repair and maintenance workers, building demolition workers, and asbestos abatement workers;” meaning hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the U.S. have been estimated to have been exposed to asbestos.

Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases including asbestosis and mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the Mesothelial cells, and is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases, resulting in death.

According to the report, “A listing in the Report on Carcinogens does not by itself mean that a substance will cause cancer. Many factors, including the amount and duration of exposure, and an individual’s susceptibility to a substance, affect whether a person will develop cancer“…”exposure to asbestos increases these risks.”


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