According to the CDC, Jefferson and Washington counties are among the list of Top 50 countries in the U.S. for the highest age-adjusted mesothelioma death rates from 2000 to 2009. While these counties might not be local, the threat of asbestos causing the cancer could be, according to the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center.
Today is Mesothelioma Awareness Day, which brings attention to the tissue-lining cancer that affects lungs, stomach, heart or other organs.
“Asbestos is the only confirmed cause of mesothelioma,” vice president Sarah Wallace said. “High-risk occupations like construction workers, shipyard workers, mechanics, plant workers and firefighters have a much higher chance of being exposed to damaged asbestos. Secondhand asbestos exposure is also a concern.”
Wallace said this can happen when a worker brings home clothing, tools or other materials that have asbestos dust on them. This exposes families to the dangerous carcinogen, as well as some home renovations.
“Although asbestos use essentially ended by 1980, there are many old homes that still contain asbestos insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles, shingles, siding and other items,” she said. “Hence, when renovation or demolition projects take place in the home, these items must be handled with care. Homeowners who perform DIY projects should never remove or manipulate asbestos products on their own. A licensed asbestos abatement professional should always be hired to do this work.”
This is especially concerning since, according to Wallace, at least 60 countries have banned asbestos, but the U.S. is not yet one of them.
How can you be sure your home, school or workplace isn’t affected by asbestos? Wallace said tests, often by a licensed professional, need to be performed. However, an asbestos air testing kit can also help to determine air quality.
“Employees concerned about asbestos exposure at work should speak with their employer,” she said. “They are legally required to take certain steps to protect you from any health risks involving asbestos.”
Wallace encouraged all in the community to be active in Mesothelioma Awareness Day on the local level to help protect themselves, their families and future generations.
“(You can) help spread awareness by sharing infographics, facts, important information from mesothelioma focused organizations,” Wallace said, adding Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center offers some of these things on their website.
Local residents can also contact state representatives voicing their opinions in an effort to ban the toxin.
State Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) can be reached by phone at 614-466-9628 or through his website email.