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It is a common misconception that the naturally occurring carcinogenic mineral, asbestos, is banned in the United States. Though it is no longer mined in the country, approximately 360 tons of asbestos are imported yearly for use in plastics, coatings, and construction compounds.
Just this summer, an investigative team at an ABC affiliate in Raleigh learned asbestos in makeup sold at Justice Stores, a well loved retail clothing chain for young girls. Additionally, eleven condemned homes in Statesville were set to be used for training by the local fire department this past August.
The training was halted when eight of the eleven homes tested positive for asbestos. This incidence supports the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recent study that claims firefighters are more likely to be diagnosed with, or die from, cancer than the general population.
Mesothelioma cancer develops when asbestos fibers are inhaled and embedded in the lungs, heart, or abdomen — lungs being the most common location. Approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease each year. Over 2,500 of those cases result in death — usually just months after diagnosis.
Specifically in North Carolina, there have been over 5,000 cases of asbestos-related deaths since 1999. Such discouraging survival rates become even more devastating knowing that mesothelioma is 99 percent preventable by avoiding asbestos exposure. If you have lived and worked in North Carolina for an extended period of time, there is a chance you have been exposed to asbestos, especially those employed at a steel mill or serving in the military.
Nucor Corporation and J&H Power Group, Inc. in Charlotte are just a couple of steel mills that used asbestos in their facilities. These companies relied heavily on the toxin for various reasons — from production processes to the building structure of the facility itself.
Located in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg is one of the largest military bases in the country. Built in 1918, the base has continued to expand in the decades since. Like many other bases built prior to the 1970s, Fort Bragg is an asbestos hotspot. Asbestos has even been found in unsuspecting areas such as sleeping quarters and mess halls.
Shipyards and manufacturing companies are another common place for asbestos exposure in North Carolina. At one point the state was home to three shipyards — the largest being North Carolina Shipbuilding Company. Asbestos was a common material for ships up until the 1970s. This use left the employees who helped build, repair, and maintain the vessels at risk.
Additionally, manufacturing companies such as Beacon Manufacturing in Asheville, Frito Lay in Charlotte, and Gaylord Container Corporation in Raleigh have also used asbestos in their facility construction and machinery.
These employees share the risks with their families. Oftentimes, asbestos is brought home on work clothing — thus exposing loved ones.
A new wave of asbestos exposure cases stem from the current DIY home renovation trend. Oftentimes, when homebuyers and house flippers take on the remodeling of older homes they do not have the expertise to spot asbestos and my expose themselves to the toxin. There is always a high risk of finding asbestos in homes built prior to 1970– most commonly found in attics, basements, kitchens, garages, and exteriors.
Though treatments have advanced in recent years there is still no cure for Mesothelioma. Until then, awareness and education are omnipotent. September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day (MAD), the one day of the year these victims get the spotlight.
Thanks to MAD, necessary research has been funded to further help medical experts advance diagnosis and treatment options. To advocate and learn more join the Asbestos Disease Awareness tweetchat and use the hashtag #EndMeso.
Rachel Lynch is the press and media coordinator for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, specializing in asbestos.
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