Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects fewer than 3,500 Americans each year. Though little is known about how the disease actually develops within the body, and less is known about how to cure it, the source of the disease is well understood: it is caused by exposure to asbestos. Most people who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma have a history of having worked around the carcinogenic material, whether as auto mechanics, factory workers, construction workers or some other job where the mineral’s heat resistance and strength were needed. But for America’s Native American population, occupational exposure is just one piece of the puzzle.
According to research published in the Native American news publication called The Circle, lung cancer — and specifically asbestos-related lung cancers like mesothelioma — are among the top causes of death among America’s Indians, and though many who have been diagnosed with these illnesses were exposed to asbestos through blue-collar jobs, that has not been their only source of exposure. Some Native Americans who have been diagnosed in recent years were exposed to asbestos as children, in a phenomenon known as secondary exposure. Secondary exposure to asbestos takes place when a person who works in an asbestos-contaminated environment unwittingly carries asbestos particles home on their clothing, skin or hair. The carcinogen is then tracked into their homes, where shaking dust out before laundering — or even hugging or playing with their children — spreads the risk to other members of their family.
The other significant source of asbestos exposure that is a cause for concern about mesothelioma among the Native American population comes from an illegal and disrespectful activity known as fly tipping. Fly tipping describes when people who are trying to skirt asbestos disposal requirements and regulations simply dump construction materials and other asbestos-contaminated equipment on the grounds of Native American reservations. Left out in the open, the debris is vulnerable to wind, rain and heat. It makes the asbestos friable, which means that it breaks down into microscopic particles that are easily inhaled. Fly tipping asbestos-contaminated materials puts anybody who lives or works close to the debris at risk.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, understanding the source of your asbestos exposure is just one step in the path to getting justice. For more information, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.