Prior to 1980, the United States government did not set any major limitations on the use of asbestos. Because of the lack of regulations, workers from the 1940’s to 1970’s were exposed to the deadly carcinogen in extremely unsafe levels. A variety of occupations involved high levels of exposure in order for workers to complete their job duties and many continue to include the risk of asbestos exposure. These occupations include:
Many baby boomers were established in their careers when regulations on the use of asbestos began. Although instances of occupational asbestos exposure declined as working conditions and regulations regarding asbestos were established, the use of asbestos in industrial fields has not ended. For retired baby boomers, exposure occurred many years ago, but exposed workers are not out of the woods yet.
Asbestos can take 20-50 years to cause the development of the deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. The disease’s long development time results in seniors being the age group primarily affected. Other diseases that have been linked to asbestos exposure include asbestosis, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer. There is no safe exposure level of asbestos, as any inhaled or ingested fibers can end up causing diseases decades later. Generally, the worse the exposure, the shorter the latency period will be and the quicker the disease will develop.
Secondhand exposure is also a threat to consider, as workers brought home asbestos-covered clothing which could have exposed their children or spouses through close contact. Many workers, such as military personnel, who worked on ships or with construction personnel also faced secondary exposure. Around 30% of all mesothelioma cases in the U.S. involve military veterans.
If you or a member of your family worked with asbestos, consider reaching out to your doctor during your next physical examination to evaluate your risk. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma and aren’t sure what your next steps are, we can help. Reach out to Mesothelioma Guide, a free patient advocacy group, to help you find your best treatment options and a lawyer to get you the legal compensation you are entitled to.