Sometimes when you think you know almost everything (which is actually never true!!) about a certain topic/issue, you are surprised that there is actually more to learn about it and of this world. This is exactly what happened. I thought I had a general understanding of most types of cancer after what my dad went through and other people I knew who experienced other types of cancer. Emily Walsh, the Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, contacted me to help her in spreading the word about mesothelioma through her organization’s summer campaign called “Moment for Meso”. It was my first time hearing about this type of cancer and it is with pleasure I share with you some important facts I learned.
I ask you to please kindly take a moment for mesothelioma and read about this type of cancer below.
First of all, like me, you may wonder what is mesothelioma? I learned that it is an aggressive cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. One of the leading causes of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is an insulating material consisting of magnesium-silicate mineral fibres. It is invisible to the naked eye and often found in many older homes, schools, factories and commercial buildings as it was favoured by builders and contractors for many years for its low heat conductivity and resistance to melting and burning. Once it becomes worn or damaged, it causes fibres to flake off and become airborne; it is at this point that it becomes a great risk. When research showed that there is a link between mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos, this material was then used less. However, millions of people, both in America, Canada and around the world, are exposed to this harmful substance already.
Here are 5 startling facts about asbestos:
1. It was once used in more than 3000 American consumer products (e.g. household items like toasters and hair dryers) and some of which may still be in use today.
2. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe.
3. It is still not banned in the United States and about 30 million pounds are still used today.
4. It is possible to experience second-hand asbestos exposure by touching clothing or items that have asbestos fibers on them.
5. Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of occupational cancer in the USA even more than 30 years after its peak.
Now that you know what is asbestos and have a better understanding of how it is linked to mesothelioma, here are 5 interesting facts about this type of cancer:
1. Every year around 3000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma and are given an average of 10 months to live.
2. It can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms closely resemble other respiratory conditions.
3. Symptoms may not appear until 30-60 years later, after first exposure to asbestos.
4. Navy veterans are at the most risk of to develop mesothelioma since asbestos was widely used in Naval ships and shipyards.
5. Men are 4 times more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma; however, women are becoming victims to it through second-hand exposure.
Mesothelioma in Canada
As a Canadian citizen, I was curious to see if mesothelioma is becoming as prominent as in the United States, so I did a little bit of research. To my astonishment, I discovered that Canada has the highest mesothelioma cancer rate in the world. It is no wonder since Canada was heavily involved in the chrysotile asbestos industry since the late 19th century through mining and the federal government allowed its production and use in thousands of products. Similar to the United States, the most significant increases happened in the shipbuilding areas around Vancouver, and in Quebec. Quebec was home to many of Canada’s early asbestos mines.
According to medical experts, about 2.1 of 100, 000 Canadians are diagnosed every year with mesothelioma. Today, only 1 of the original 13 mines are in operation. The Canadian government did set some safety regulations on asbestos use. As well, it is spending billions of dollars to remove asbestos from schools, factories, plants and other commercial buildings. High-risk professions and trades affected by exposure to asbestos includes miners, ship loaders, truck drivers, carpenters, construction workers, insulation installers, plumbers, roofers, shipbuilders and textile workers.
While Canada is trying to protect its own citizens from asbestos exposure (as given examples above), it is interesting to note that it led a successful campaign to block the listing of asbestos as a toxic material as proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and many countries at the Rotterdam Convention in 2004 and 2008. It also continues to be a major exporter of chrysotile asbestos to second and third world countries who do not monitor asbestos exposure or regulate its use, as it makes $100 million dollars. All 27 European Union countries, Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Chile and Japan have banned asbestos in their countries. Second and third world countries such as India and Vietnam continue to use asbestos products in construction. However, on a positive note, it appears the Canadian government is changing its tune. In 2012, it revealed that it will no longer block international efforts to add chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material at the Rotterdam Convention. The next Rotterdam Convention will be held in 2015. Let’s see if Canada will keep its promise next year.
Thank you for taking your time to read about mesothelioma and being part of “Moment for Meso”. I hope you have learned something about it, and are more aware of it now. Feel free to spread the word to others and let’s all help to raise awareness! 🙂
If you like, you can learn more about mesothelioma by reading the following sites that I’ve used to put this post together.