- Diagnosis & Prognosis
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You work as a joiner.
If you spend all of your time in a shop, you might not have much opportunity to encounter asbestos. So your risk of developing mesothelioma is probably low.
But opportunities to come into contact with asbestos are vastly greater if you do even some of your work at the site where your cabinets, shelves, doors and window frames will be installed. In that situation, your risk of developing mesothelioma is likely moderate to high.
Joiner-related construction materials are normally not sources of asbestos exposure. The danger comes from materials associated with other trades, such as:
These and many other types of construction materials made before the 1990s often contained asbestos. The mineral was added to improve strength, durability, and moisture-resistance.
But the two main reasons for adding asbestos were to give products the ability to contain or withstand extremely high heat and make it very unlikely they would ever combust.
These and other actions cause the asbestos within to break loose and get into the air you breathe. Asbestos fibers in the air behave much like dust particles. They float.
They also remain aloft for days on end. When they eventually settle, it takes little effort to launch them back into the air.
You could breathe in a little or a lot of these floating asbestos fibers. It all depends on where at the time you are inside the structure and what construction activity took place before you got there.
For example, you can expect to encounter much more asbestos if you are working within a confined space than if you are working in a larger space. You also can expect to encounter much more asbestos if you are one of the last trades sequenced in to be onsite than if you are one of the first.
But in small amounts or large, any asbestos you inhale — or swallow — is potentially life-threatening.
The process goes like this. The asbestos that enters through your nose is so fine that it has no problem channeling all the way down into the deepest part of your lungs. Or, if you swallow it, it will eventually reach the deepest part of your intestinal tract.
Wherever it goes, it will remain there permanently. It won’t immediately harm you. Instead, it will slowly corrupt the healthy cells that line your lungs, abdomen or heart.
This could take decades. It usually does. It ends when the asbestos succeeds in turning at least one healthy cell cancerous.
Other cancer cells quickly develop. Untreated, this disease can take over your body within a year.
Joiners who joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America have advantages in the fight against mesothelioma.
They have access to great medical insurance. That’s very important because treating mesothelioma is very expensive.
They also have access to programs that explain how to minimize the risk of exposure to jobsite asbestos – the best way to beat mesothelioma is to never let it get started.
But the union can only do so much for you. The rest of it is up to you. Perhaps the wisest thing you can do for yourself is see a doctor and be examined for the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma.
Remember, the earlier you act against mesothelioma, the better your chances of living longer.