If you work construction in New York, you could be inhaling asbestos fibers every day without realizing it. Asbestos is a mineral used in a wide array of industrial and consumer products. The fact that it has outstanding insulating abilities, as well as resistance to fire and flame, makes it a favorite component of construction products and brake pads.
The problem is the microscopic fibers asbestos produces when such things as saws, drills, sanders or even screwdrivers disturb it. The fibers immediately disperse into the surrounding air on the slightest air current or breeze. Even if you wear a traditional dust mask when working around asbestos products, it fails to prevent these fibers from invading your lungs when you breathe them in. Eventually, they build up and often result in mesothelioma, an incurable malignant cancer.
In addition to construction workers, you are at high risk for asbestos exposure if you work as one of the following:
- Pipefitter or welder
- Stonemason or bricklayer
- Auto mechanic, especially if you repair brakes
As stated, mesothelioma is incurable. It also is aggressively malignant. In addition to your lungs, it also can develop virtually anywhere in your body since the asbestos fibers you breath attach themselves not only to the linings of your lungs, but also those of other organs.
The other frightening thing about mesothelioma is that your symptoms can be so diverse and nonspecific that your doctor misdiagnoses you with something else. Consequently, you may not receive a proper diagnosis until 20-40 years after your original asbestos exposure.
Common early symptoms
Take a proactive approach with your doctor if you suspect your job site(s) expose you to asbestos and you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent cough, sometimes including spitting up blood
- Painful breathing
- Stomach pain
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Any and all of these symptoms are early warning signs of mesothelioma, even though they can also indicate other diseases as well. Alerting your doctor to the possibility that your continued asbestos exposure at work is causing them helps him or her to test for and rule out the other diseases. The sooner you get a proper diagnosis, the better your doctor can manage your illness and minimize your discomfort.