Can short term asbestos exposure cause mesothelioma?
While it’s true that some cancers are caused by prolonged exposure to carcinogens (cancer causing agents), this rule does not hold true for asbestos in many cases. It’s a myth that only prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause the cancer
It’s a myth that only prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause the cancer mesothelioma.
According to research published by the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, the record for the shortest known exposure to asbestos resulting in mesothelioma was just 16 hours.
What matters more than length of exposure to asbestos?
A number of studies have been conducted on mesothelioma victims and have found that length of exposure is not the primary factor in this cancer risk. Instead, four factors have been identified that contribute to risk:
- Intensity of exposure
- Duration of exposure
- Type of asbestos
- Other risk factors
Prolonged exposure to asbestos can be a factor, but it’s complicated
Duration of exposure is only one piece of the mesothelioma puzzle – but to count it as the primary factor is not an accurate way to look at asbestos exposure that leads to mesothelioma. Here’s a look at what research has shown about the four factors listed above.
Intensity of exposure – The 16 hour exposure mentioned above that led to mesothelioma was a case of great intensity of exposure. The victim cut asbestos with a circular saw for two work days without wearing any protective gear. This likely resulted in countless fibers embedding in his mesothelial tissue. Research indicates that those who were exposed to a great amount of asbestos, even for a short period, are at greater risk for mesothelioma.
Duration of exposure – The same study found that roughly 3% of mesothelioma cases resulted from asbestos exposure that lasted three months or less. Research shows a combination of intensity and duration of exposure as the greatest risk factor. A longer duration of exposure to either low or high levels of asbestos increases risks but a shorter duration of greater intensity can also lead to heightened risk of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses.
Type of asbestos – There are two primary types of asbestos – amphibole and chrysotile. Amphibole asbestos fibers are straight while chrysotile are curled. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that amphibole fibers pose more of a health hazard. The body is less able to expel amphibole fibers. Also important is the length of the asbestos fibers. The British Journal of Experimental Pathology published research showed that longer fibers are much more carcinogenic than shorter fibers.
Other risk factors – According to the American Lung Association, smoking does not increase mesothelioma risk but smoking is linked to a greater risk of developing asbestos lung cancer. The Mayo Clinic cites a polio vaccine administered in 1955-1963 that could increase risk because of a simian virus used in the vaccine. Living with someone who worked with asbestos can put you at risk for mesothelioma due to second-hand exposure. There are likely other risk factors yet to be identified.
Asbestos risk is alive and well
One recent example of short-term yet intense exposure to asbestos occurred on September 11, 2001. First responders that worked the 9/11 scene were exposed to high levels of asbestos from the destruction of the Twin Towers as were onlookers, survivors of the terror attack and nearby residents. A representative of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida said, “I would expect a rash of mesothelioma and lung cancer cases to begin 20 years after 9/11 and to peak about 40 years after 9/11.”
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact the team at Bergman Draper Oslund today for help. Our practice focuses on mesothelioma cases and we’ve won $700 million for asbestos victims.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation – we are the largest mesothelioma practice in the Pacific Northwest and now accept cases all over the US.