- Diagnosis & Prognosis
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You work as a steamfitter.
As a result, you are often exposed to asbestos. That means you likely have a moderate to high risk for mesothelioma.
The exposure comes from the equipment and materials of your trade. Many of these contain asbestos. Some examples include:
The highest risk comes as a result of working on systems that feature components manufactured before the end of the 1980s. The reason is that pre-1990s components relied on the most toxic type of asbestos to serve as an insulating and fireproofing agent.
Consequently, the opportunities for you to become exposed to asbestos are many.
The most worrisome opportunities are those that arise as a result of you inspecting, maintaining and updating steam-distribution systems that are older. They were configured and first made operational before asbestos use was curbed.
Performance of those kinds of tasks requires you to scrape off old insulation, unfasten connectors, remove gaskets, cut or drill into asbestos-coated pipe sections, and more.
The trouble with those actions is each of them causes asbestos fibers to break off and enter the air. Once in the air, asbestos can easily find its way into your lungs or intestinal tract.
This happens because asbestos fibers are so small. When they break away from the product containing them, they act just like dust particles — they float in the air and stay there a long time.
The fibers are so small that you can’t see them individually. If a lot of asbestos is in the air, you’ll be able to see a sinister-looking thick cloud that might make you think to avoid it.
But smaller amounts of asbestos don’t look quite so threatening. They look like nothing more than wisps of dust. For that reason, you might not give walking into them a second thought.
That would be a huge mistake. When you enter a zone of floating asbestos, the fibers get taken in through your airway or digestive system. They’re so small that they travel way down deep. The fibers once implanted remain there always.
Many long years later, the asbestos fibers inside you succeed in turning healthy cells into cancer. This occurs among the cells that form the protective lining on the outer surface of your lungs, abdomen and heart.
Scientists don’t understand how asbestos inside your lungs activates cancer outside your lungs. They’re still trying to make sense of that.
One thing they do know is that the cancer spreads like wildfire if left untreated.
That’s why it can be very good to belong to a labor union. Unions provide members access to medical insurance that helps pay the enormously expensive cost of mesothelioma treatment.
Unions also offer education programs or content to help members be smart when working near or with asbestos. As they say, prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The United Association — the Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and HVAC Service Techs — is the group to which many steamfitters belong. This union can help you.
So can a doctor skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. If you haven’t done so already, you should locate one near you and arrange to undergo a full examination for mesothelioma.
Don’t let this cruel disease sneak up on you.