Finally, a day off and a long weekend to celebrate the end of summer on this Labor Day holiday. However, as Americans head to the beach to celebrate, it is important to remember the roots of this holiday: a day to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers. It is more important to remember that many of these workers continue to endure unnecessary health risks from asbestos exposure.
Asbestos-containing products were used in construction materials including roofing materials, floor tiles, caulk, joint compound, ceiling tiles and insulation in buildings built prior to the 1980s. As a result, occupational exposure to asbestos still occurs today in the construction industry during the repair, renovation, removal, or maintenance of asbestos-containing products installed years ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that nearly 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry are exposed to asbestos on the job each year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber. The toxic mineral is a known carcinogen and persons occupationally exposed to asbestos, according to OSHA, are at risk for developing life-threatening diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, chest or abdomen that is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments. Even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
Jennifer Gelsick, who blogs on MesotheliomaHelp about life before and after mesothelioma, knows all too well the dangers of asbestos. She lost her father, Don Smitley, to mesothelioma. Jennifer is saddened to think that her father and other workers were simply “trying their best to provide for their families,” yet were diagnosed with mesothelioma.
“Thinking that these individuals were essentially punished for that is inexcusable to me,” says Jennifer. “These men and women served their country, helped others, and made a life for their families. Then, later in their lives, they come to find that their pure, good intentions have made them ill.”
Mesothelioma has an extended latency period and strikes 15 to 60 years after exposure to asbestos. Each year 2,500 to 4,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases.