This week on Mamavation TV, we heard a touching story from our guest, Heather Von St. James. She is a survivor of a rare form of cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma. What makes her story unique, is how she was exposed to the cancer-causing asbestos. Heather’s childhood memories of greeting her father after work and wearing his coat that was “like wearing a hug” are now known as moments of exposure, though at the time they did not suspect asbestos at all. Her father was a construction worker and volunteer firefighter. He would come home in car full of dust, in clothes covered in dust, and kiss his family while his beard was coated in dust. Asbestos dust.
Fast forward a few decades and Heather found herself diagnosed with mesothelioma just 3 months after her daughter was born. She and her family quickly sought skilled doctors whose innovative treatments saved her life. She now works to educate and help others who are dealing with asbestos exposure or mesothelioma, and educating those who suspect asbestos exposure.
Lethal but Legal
Despite asbestos being widely known for its toxicity, it isn’t actually banned in the US. It is still being used, and over 2 million pounds are imported annually. Most other countries have cleverly made the use of asbestos illegal. However, a ban attempting to crack down on asbestos was struck down in the 1980s here in America.
Where Could Asbestos Be?
Some common places that asbestos can be found are:
(in both commercial and residential buildings)
- Ceiling Tiles
- Popcorn Ceilings
- Construction Sites
For more common areas, be sure to check out this handy infographic on identifying asbestos in your home.
What To Do If You Suspect Asbestos:
If you suspect asbestos in your home or work environment, leave it to the professionals. Contact an asbestos abatement company and have them test the area. If you do find asbestos, you can have it removed, or encapsulate it. This is not something you want to attempt yourself. Although asbestos is harmless if left undisturbed, it is comprised of microscopic fibers that can easily become airborne.
The process for removing asbestos is designed to eliminate exposure to these tiny fibers. Asbestos is carefully sprayed with foam and bagged before removal.
For encapsulating an asbestos ridden area, you just need to close off the asbestos completely. For example, cover asbestos-tainted tiles with a barrier and new hardwood floors. No one can come in contact with the carcinogen now.
For help finding an asbestos abatement company, visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance for a comprehensive list.
Time Will Tell
Mesothelioma has an exceptionally long incubation period, ranging from 10-50 years! As time goes on we will continue to see more cases of the disease. The asbestos “cloud” that covered New York City after the collapse of the twin towers is now starting to show its effects. If we continue to be use asbestos, we will continue to be exposed. If exposure continues, lives will continue to be affected by Mesothelioma.
If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos contact your doctor and note any symptoms such as:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dry, unproductive cough
- Gastro-Intestinal issues
Be sure to watch the full recorded broadcast of Mamavation TV to hear all Heather Von St. James had to share.