The Asbestos Debate

Mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a generic term used to describe six different minerals, of which are serpentine, crocidolite, actinolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and amosite. The WHO distinguishes different types of asbestos fibers as being long or short.

125 million people are still exposed to asbestos in the workplace and millions of people are exposed daily. Throughout the world, most malignant mesothelioma cases are caused by occupational exposure to asbestos, however mesothelioma can also be the result of para-occupational exposure, environmental exposures and domestic exposures. There are two different types of occupational exposures: asbestos industry exposure and non-asbestos industry exposure.

Types of Exposure

Asbestos industry exposures include direct exposures through asbestos mining and the manufacturing and producing of asbestos-containing materials. When we say non-asbestos industry exposures, we mean exposure from trades such as HVAC and plumbing and the automotive and ship industries. Domestic and para-occupational exposure are terms sometimes used to describe exposure through living with someone who works in an asbestos-based industry or being exposed in the home through things such as home renovations. Environmental exposure can occur because of the natural environment or due to human activity.

Waves of Asbestos

A study showed that many people working in the trades do not even recognize when they have encountered asbestos. There are four “waves” of asbestos exposure. These have been labeled as raw asbestos handling, installation of asbestos products, repairs, renovations and removal of asbestos and building deterioration and accidental finds. Between the years 2005 to 2008 35.7 percent of malignant mesothelioma cases in women and 8.4% of malignant mesothelioma cases in men have been the result of a home renovation- this would be a domestic exposure. Non-occupational asbestos exposure that has resulted in mesothelioma has become an increasing proportion of the total number of mesothelioma cases. Up to 30% of cases of mesothelioma in the US are from-non occupational exposure. Community exposure to asbestos can also occur, which affects women and children more than men and adults.

Urban development may also disturb asbestos-fibers and lead to an increased risk of exposure. Due to its latency period, it is sometimes hard for people to determine their source of exposure. Mesothelioma cases are also underreported throughout the world. An instance of this is when mesothelioma is mis-documented as a malignant pleural effusion.


There are groups of people that argue that exposure to chrysotile asbestos, the most common form of asbestos, is not dangerous, although this has been proven by scientists to be untrue. Lobbying groups that are pro-chrysotile are usually present in countries in which asbestos is still mined and exported. Some active pro-asbestos lobbyist groups exist throughout the world and there is no doubt that they influence the public’s perspective on how dangerous asbestos is. This has caused debate in a section of the scientific community as well. For instance, the International Agency for Research on Cancer sent a delegate to a conference that was being run by a pro-asbestos lobby. Another cause for concern is that the asbestos industry has funded “research” projects about asbestos to try to lie to the world about chrysotile asbestos and claim that it is not dangerous. However, back in 2012, the Joint Policy Committee of Epidemiology Societies stated that “a rigorous review of the epidemiologic evidence confirms that all types of asbestos fibers are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death.” It can be concluded that all types of asbestos can cause cancers, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, please call the Halpern Law Firm at (800) 505-6000 for legal help. We will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve. With over 30 years of experience and over $100 million won for our clients, we are here for you. Contact us today.


Written By Sadie Gold

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