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Farms and Asbestos Exposure

One of the more untraditional ways to be exposed to asbestos is through farms. You might be wondering how, but upon further investigation, a lot of the materials used, from building materials to fertilizer, are at risk of containing the mineral. Due to the unfamiliar association between farms and asbestos exposure, workers and families living nearby may be at risk of developing mesothelioma. Unfortunately, the farmers who are exposed to asbestos will show symptoms of mesothelioma 30-40 years after initial exposure. Given the long latency period, farmers may not realize the potential danger they are facing.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with a spindle-like shape. It is further described as a family of fibers that are heat-resistant and commonly used for insulation. When damaged or crumbled asbestos can be extremely harmful if consumed or inhaled. The five most common asbestos types include actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and tremolite asbestos.

There are many different parts of the farming industry where workers can be exposed. Some of the different agricultural occupations at risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Poultry farmers
  • Dairy farmers
  • General farm workers
  • Livestock farmers

As mentioned previously, a lot of the materials used in farms contain the mineral. While a lot of consideration goes into selecting the correct machinery for the job, like size and horsepower, asbestos exposure is likely not one of the variables that is regarded. Asbestos can be found in multiple parts of the machinery:

  • Gaskets
  • Brake pads
  • Engine

This means if the farmers or workers are conducting their maintenance without protective equipment, they are jeopardizing their safety without even knowing it. Some major companies like Ford and John Deere, were recognized to use these products. Unfortunately, this was not the only place where farmers were at risk for exposure.

Farms and Asbestos Exposure – Areas of Use

During the Industrial Revolution, asbestos was a cheap and common material that was used in homes and buildings. It was used as an insulator due to its heat-resistant properties and it is estimated that there are 30 million homes in the United States containing the mineral as reported by PBS. This is not restrictive to these homes and was additionally found in barns and different parts of the farm as well. Some of the different areas can include:

  • Chicken coops
  • Garage
  • Shed

These locations additionally contained further exposure if structured with floor tiles, siding, pipes, and sealants that were made with asbestos. A lot of these household materials contained asbestos, as it was commercially produced in the years before 1980, and it is estimated by the Department of Health that “There are over 3,000 known products that may contain asbestos”. While the commercial use was done a couple of decades ago, the mineral was fully banned in March of 2024 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency due to its association with causing cancer.

As mentioned earlier, mesothelioma is the illness farmers and workers were at risk of developing. Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that attacks the mesothelial cells. These cells are found in the tissue surrounding vital organs like the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. The most common cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure as “Up to 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases result from primary exposure” (Mesothelioma Causes, Risks, and Prevention | Penn Medicine, 2024). When the asbestos is inhaled, no matter how long or frequent the exposure is, the fibers enter the chosen organ and remain. The spindle-like shape of the mineral makes it difficult to exit the body.

Latency

It is recognized that mesothelioma has a long latency period and the symptoms that often persist include chest pain, persistent cough, and difficulty breathing. While there is currently no cure for this rare type of cancer, treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and palliative care are available for these patients. Unfortunately, while these treatments can help with the growth of the cancer cells, the life expectancy is relatively short following a diagnosis. Patients have roughly 4 to 18 months of survival time and “The current five-year survival rate for the disease is just 10 percent” as reported by Penn Medicine. Therefore, it is critical to raise awareness for farmers and farm workers about the risks of asbestos exposure on the farm.

 

Farmers and individuals who have been exposed to and experienced symptoms of mesothelioma could be eligible for financial compensation. If you or someone you know has been affected by mesothelioma in the state of Pennsylvania, please visit The Halpern Law firm for a free consultation or call (800) 505-6000 to turn today’s adversity into tomorrow’s justice.

 

 

Sources:

 

https://www.tafe.com/blog/basic-tips-while-selecting-a-tractor/#:~:text=Horsepower%2C%20Size%20and%20Weight%20%E2%80%93%20What%20will%20power%20up%20your%20work&text=This%20is%20a%20very%20crucial,always%20dependable%20on%20each%20other.

https://www.agrinews-pubs.com/news/farm-equipment/2022/11/19/6-million-awarded-in-asbestos-lawsuit-against-ford-others/

https://www.thriftyhomesteader.com/asbestos-in-farming/

https://www.cms7files.revize.com/ephratawa/Document_Center/Department/Fire/Fire%20&%20Life%20Safety%20Tips/EFD_Asbestos_Identification_-_Old_Homes.pdf

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/decades-after-proof-of-its-carcinogenic-properties-asbestos-still-surrounds-us

https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/epa-actions-protect-public-exposure-asbestos

https://www.pennmedicine.org/cancer/types-of-cancer/mesothelioma/causes-risks-prevention#:~:text=The%20risk%20factors%20for%20mesothelioma,cases%20result%20from%20primary%20exposure.

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/asbestos/products.html#:~:text=There%20are%20over%203%2C000%20known%20products%20that%20may%20contain%20asbestos.

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