First asbestos killed the miners who pulled it from the earth. Next it was the shipbuilders and line workers who used the toxic mineral in manufacturing. Now, physicians around the world are bracing themselves for the “3rd Wave” of asbestos-related casualties: The innocent, unsuspecting people exposed to asbestos via ceiling tiles, insulated pipes, and other building materials.
These victims are: men and women of the armed services, construction workers, firefighters, welders, pipefitters, repairmen, electricians, and plumbers, among many others.
In Australia, 1 doctor has stepped forward and said he’s expecting a massive spike in asbestos-related diseases during the next few years. Doctor Ray Jones predicted the asbestos disease peak will come in 2020.
Jones said that many people now in their 50s, 60s, and 70s were exposed to asbestos when they were children, 40-50 years ago when the mineral was used extensively in construction. The children were “exposed to unbelievable amounts of asbestos at school and at home," he said. "The school [in Baryulgil] was built on asbestos tailings and the playgrounds were basically full of asbestos. So you'd expect there now to be plethora of asbestos-related cancers arising from the children who played at that school 40 years ago."
Unfortunately, what Dr. Jones said applies as much to the U.S. as it does Australia. As in Australia, asbestos was often used in the U.S. during the 20th Century. In the 1960s and 70s especially, it was widely used in the construction of schools. Because asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma typically have a latency period of 20-50 years, the deadly consequences of mistakes made decades ago may finally be coming home to roost.
The Storm Is Coming
Dr. Jones made his predictions after a 55-year-old Australian man recently died from mesothelioma. As a child, the man had played in piles of asbestos with his classmates.
Mesothelioma is a rare and incurable form of cancer caused exclusively by asbestos exposure. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they do not leave the body. Instead, they become lodged in the lining of the lungs and abdomen. Over the decades, the trapped fibers cause biological damage which may eventually result in the formation of cancer. Because there is no cure for mesothelioma, once it develops the ultimate result is death.
Another illness linked to asbestos exposure is asbestosis, an excruciating condition where the trapped asbestos fibers cause horrific, painful scarring within the body.
According to some estimates, upwards of 15,000 Americans die every year from asbestos-related illnesses. Because of the long-latency period of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, many of these victims didn’t even know they were sick just months before their lives were taken.
If Dr. Jones’ frightening prediction is accurate, tens of thousands of Americans are currently walking around unaware of their impending sickness and death. Tragically, the Australian doctor’s forecast is most likely spot on, meaning the number of people killed by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases will continue to rise.
Not Just in the Land Down Under
Since the 1970s when its children played in heaps of asbestos, Australia has banned asbestos completely. 57 other countries have also taken responsible action and banned asbestos. Though Australians exposed to asbestos decades ago will continue to develop serious illnesses, the asbestos ban will help children born today avoid suffering the same tragic fate.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in the U.S.
The importation and use of asbestos is still legal in the U.S. What’s worse, President Trump has previously expressed his fondness for the deadly mineral, and his nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has likewise said that he will not ban asbestos. Under the new White House administration, asbestos regulation, which was seemingly tightened under President Obama, will only become more relaxed.
Cases of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related illnesses are likely to rise in the upcoming years, both in Australia and in the U.S. However, at a certain point in the near future, the cases will begin to drop off in Australia and other countries that have banned the toxic mineral. Sadly, this will not be the situation in America.