The newest, and perhaps most depressing, emerging research on asbestos and cancer is the relationship between this mineral and free radical particles. According to scientists, since asbestos particles have such high iron content, when they mix with oxygen, they create free radical particles. The reaction is even more potent if phagocytic (immune) cells are in the mix.

What are free radicals and why does it matter?

Free radical particles increase the risk of environmental cancer. This risk includes kinds of cancer not normally associated with asbestos poisoning, such as prostate cancer, leukemia, bladder cancer, and the list goes on.

Furthermore, toxic asbestos fibers are the biological equivalent of unwanted house guests who never leave. These microscopic particles collect in the body. So, if Phil was exposed to asbestos and dodges the mesothelioma bullet, because of the free radical particle buildup, if he’s exposed to another environmental toxin, he probably won’t be as lucky.

Asbestos causes cancer. Health researchers are learning how
Los estudios demuestran que las fibras de amianto se incrustan en el tejido corporal:
Causing scarringDisrupting the body’s defense mechanismsIncreasing formation of free-radicals (electrical charges known to increase the likelihood of cancer)Harming DNA that controls cellular growth, potentially leading to the formation of carcinomas (cancerous tumors)

“Todas las formas de asbesto son cancerígenas para los humanos”.

The free radical relationship is a new development. The items discussed below are relatively new as well. But, for about a hundred years, asbestos providers knew about other health risks. They had many opportunities to do the right thing and find a safe alternative substance. They blew those chances. As a result, an asbestos exposure lawyer can obtain substantial compensation for victims and survivors. 

Mesotelioma pleural

This rare and aggressive form of heart-lung cancer might be the most well-known asbestos exposure adverse health effect. Researchers began connecting the dots between asbestos exposure and pleural mesothelioma (PlM) in the 1950s. The first successful mesothelioma lawsuits followed in the 1960s.

All the plaintiffs in these initial lawsuits were primary exposure victims who worked directly with asbestos or asbestos-laced products. These individuals include:

  • Mineros

A 1989 partial asbestos prohibited the sale of most asbestos-containing products. But asbestos mining remained legal until 2002. Usually, mine owners set very demanding quotas, and PPE (personal protective equipment) slowed miners down. Therefore, many chose not to wear it, or at least not wear all of it.

  • Construction Workers

Partially since asbestos doesn’t conduct heat or electricity, but mostly because it was so cheap, construction companies packed houses with asbestos, especially in high-heat areas, like plumbing, electrical wiring areas and attics. 

  • Military Veterans

For these same reasons, the Navy and other military branches extensively used asbestos. Use accelerated after a 1967 fire aboard the U.S.S. Forrestal, an aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of Southeast Asia, killed several dozen people.

  • Industrial Workers

These workers not only handled asbestos-laced products, as mentioned above. They also worked in asbestos-laced facilities. Furthermore, to perpetuate the “asbestos is safe” myth, many companies didn’t provide adequate PPE and/or didn’t encourage workers to use it.

These individuals, especially workers and miners, were mostly men. Women haven’t filed too many lawsuits, until recently. In fact, in 2021, the CDC announced that in the past two decades, the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma rate in women actually went up, and was still being under-reported. One big reason for this is that one in five of the women with mesothelioma described themselves as homemakers, people who had no reason to suspect they were being exposed.

PlM tumors form in the lining that separates the heart and lungs. These tumors grow slowly for several decades. Then, cancer cells suddenly spread rapidly. As a result, doctors often miss the early diagnosis window, and when treatments begin, they’re usually ineffective.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma still presents a public health problem.

We should also mention peritoneal mesothelioma (PtM), a form of abdominal cancer that has become much more common lately. Ovarian cancer has been linked to stray asbestos fibers in talcum powder.

Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The good news is that some effective PtM treatments are available. The bad news is that they’re very expensive and many group health insusance plans don’t cover them. So, it’s very important for an asbestos exposure lawyer to connect PtM victims with expert doctors and obtain the compensation these victims need to pay medical bills.

Brain Cancer

Researchers are beginning to explore the connection between asbestos exposure and brain cancer. They theorize that asbestos exposure cancer could spread to the brain through:

  • Lymphatic System: Asbestos particles in talcum powder migrate from the genitals to the ovaries. Likewise, asbestos particles often migrate through the lymphatic system to the lymph nodes. The cells can then spread to the brain and lead to tumor development.
  • Circulatory System: Once mesothelioma cells are in the bloodstream, they can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Victims over 65 with stage four of mesothelioma have the highest risk of brain metastasis. Most of these victims have lived with mesothelioma for a while. The longer a patient lives with untreated mesothelioma, the more likely they are to have brain metastasis. Treating localized mesothelioma first may prevent this metastasis.

Brain metastasis is always a secondary condition, at least as far as we know now. There are no documented cases of brain metastasis appearing first in mesothelioma patients.

Autoimmune Disease

Researchers have linked autoimmune disease with Libby vermiculite. At one point, the Grace COmpany mine in Libby, Montana produced about 80 percent of the world’s vermiculite. This insulation mineral is normally safe, but the Libby vermiculite was laced with asbestiform fibers (tremolite, winchite, and richterite), a combination now known as Libby Amphibole

Libby, Montana and the hazards of asbestos exposure

Many Libby patients, a category that includes area residents and people who handled Libby vermiculite, have been diagnosed multiple systemic autoimmune disorders, including:

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE),
  • Scleroderma,
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA),
  • Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder,
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica,
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome, and
  • Psoriasis.

Scientists believe that future research could compare asbestos-related lung disease progression in patients on treatment for autoimmune disease versus those who are not. This research could lead to clinical investigation into whether similar medications affecting the immune system might be useful in treating progressive pleural disease.

In other words, there may be a connection between all these asbestos exposure illnesses. If researchers find that connection, the mesothelioma survival rate, as well as the overall asbestos exposure-related cancer survival rate, could improve significantly.