Mesothelioma Causes 1 Risk Factors

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer affecting the tissue covering the internal organs and the internal surface of the body cavities containing the organs. The main cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Though other risk factors, such as smoking, may contribute, the true cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, primarily occupational exposure. Individuals in certain professions should be aware of this risk, in order to prevent mesothelioma.

Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

Asbestos is a natural material known for its strength and heat resistance, which historically made asbestos a desirable material in many applications. Despite its advantages, asbestos exposure has been found to pose health dangers. During manufacture, installation or removal of asbestos-containing products, small particles of asbestos dust can be released into the air. These particles can be inhaled or ingested, sometimes leading to mesothelioma cancer.

Occupational Risk Factors and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos has such a wide variety of applications, and is used in so many products. This makes many professions at high risk for asbestos exposure, including:

  • Asbestos Removal: Those who remove asbestos from older structures are in constant contact with asbestos, including dust released into the air.
  • Auto Mechanics: Asbestos has historically been used in automobile clutches and brakes. Auto mechanics replacing and repairing worn auto components can potentially experience asbestos exposure.
  • Construction and Demolition: Older buildings often contained asbestos products, including insulation and flooring tiles. When these buildings were constructed, repaired or demolished, any workers involved were at risk of being exposed to asbestos. For these reasons, workers both in the past and today have risk factors for developing mesothelioma.
  • Electrical: Because of its heat resistance, asbestos was often used in electrical wiring work. Electricians may be at risk of asbestos exposure when working with older wiring or drilling through walls to repair or replace wiring.
  • Military: Individuals stationed on Navy or Coast Guard ships, or those who worked in shipyards were at high risk for asbestos exposure, as the material was used extensively in shipbuilding.
  • Railroads: Asbestos was used in the railroad industry as insulation for high-temperature engine parts. Workers dealing with repair, installation or renovation were at risk of asbestos exposure.

Others were also at risk, including those who worked in the manufacture or repair of products or structures containing asbestos. However, heavy, constant and prolonged asbestos exposure is the most significant contributing cause of mesothelioma.

How Workers can Prevent Mesothelioma

Today, even those individuals with heavy asbestos exposure can stay safe and prevent mesothelioma by using the proper protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has measures in place to limit workplace asbestos exposure, including air quality testing and respirator use.

Individuals who worked around asbestos in the past may not have had the luxury of knowledge of their risk factors, or protection from asbestos exposure. However, if you know you were exposed to asbestos, you should inform your doctor. That way, she can monitor your health status for any symptoms of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related conditions.

Resources Staff. (n.d.). Auto mechanics: Mesothelioma risks. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from the Web site: Staff. (n.d.). Electricians: Mesothelioma risks. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from the Web site: Staff. (2009). Mesothelioma causes: Shipyards carry high risk for asbestos exposure. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from the Web site: Staff. (n.d.). Railroad workers: Mesothelioma risks. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from the Web site: Staff. (n.d.). Sailors and deckhands: Mesothelioma risks. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from the Web site:

Asbestos Resource Center Staff. (n.d.). Asbestos exposure: Occupations at risk. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from the Asbestos Resource Center Web site:

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Staff. (2006). Assigned protection factors; Final rule – 71:50121-50192. Retrieved January 4, 2010, from the OSHA Web site: