Malignant mesothelioma is an asbestos-related disease that is traditionally (and appropriately) associated with occupational settings. Most victims are those who have been exposed to the carcinogen in factories, in high-heat settings like boiler rooms, and while working on construction sites doing insulation work, working with asbestos concrete, and ceiling and floor tile installation or removal. But according to experts at the American Cancer Society and Harvard University, there are ongoing and increasing risks we will face as climate change leads to new exposures to asbestos.
Risk of Malignant Mesothelioma Death Increases as Disasters Increase Exposure and Decrease Access to Healthcare
The risk of exposure to asbestos following a disaster has long been known as a mesothelioma risk, but as more weather disasters occur, the concerns of healthcare professionals are increasing. Homes and institutional buildings alike are heavily contaminated with asbestos materials that are safe while intact, but which pose significant problems when they are damaged or exposed to the weather, as happens during the tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires that have been spurred by climate change.
In addition, the cancer treatment centers that malignant mesothelioma patients rely upon to prolong their lives and boost the quality of their lives are often not accessible amidst flooding, dangerous winds and other hazards created by climate change-related disasters.
Scientists Call Climate Change an Overlooked Threat to Cancer Patients
Though mesothelioma patients are unlikely to think of climate change as impacting their wellbeing, scientists behind a new report in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians say that the issue should command more attention because it is having a real impact. “The prospects for further progress in cancer prevention and control in this century are bright but face an easily overlooked threat from climate change,” they say, pointing to examples like flooding following Hurricane Harvey that released carcinogens into Houston neighborhoods.
Asbestos carried into the air following a hurricane, tornado or wildfire can easily be inhaled, leading to malignant mesothelioma decades into the future, and those same weather disasters can have a direct impact on patient survival. The published study indicated a 19% greater likelihood of cancer patient deaths during hurricane declarations due to treatment interruptions. The authors conclude, “For patients with cancer, the effects of hurricanes on access to cancer care can mean the difference between life and death.” “Climate change is not a future threat. It is impacting cancer outcomes today and there are things we can do to respond.”
Exposure to asbestos causes malignant mesothelioma, and the public needs to be aware that as climate change becomes a greater threat, so too does the risk of exposure. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.