When a town is exposed to high levels of asbestos, the entire community is at risk for malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. This has happened in the town of Libby, Montana, as well as those who lived in Wittenoom, Australia, a town that was literally shut down as a result of contamination from a nearby mine. Though these towns represent tragedies, they also present opportunities for researchers who want to learn more about the impact that exposure to asbestos has on the human body. A recent study makes this abundantly clear, as researchers from Utrecht University in The Netherlands have collaborated with scientists from several Australian universities to determine that there is a difference in the way that children and adults from Wittenoom have developed asbestos-related diseases.
The researchers were specifically trying to determine whether children were able to avoid mesothelioma despite having the same exposure to asbestos in their environment as adults who were not occupationally exposed. The scientists found that though children’s bodies do seem to lengthen the period of time that it takes for the disease to appear, once those children become adults they are just as much at risk for mesothelioma as their adult counterparts. Their natural protections are only active in the short term.
The area that this population lived in is notoriously at risk for malignant mesothelioma: it is the location of a mine where crocidolite asbestos was mined between 1943 and 1966. Though the area was once the home to more than 7,000 people, many of whom worked at the mine, the government determined the area was too toxic for human inhabitation as a result of the extensive asbestos contamination, and both the mine and the town were closed up and abandoned in 1966. The area has been posted as being extremely dangerous, though many adventure tourists have disregarded warning signs to explore the area.
The short-term protections that this study suggests that children exposed to asbestos have is particularly important to parents whose children attend asbestos-contaminated schools in the United States. The laws in the U.S. are supposed to ensure that this asbestos is properly contained, but there have been numerous reports of children being exposed in numerous locations around the country.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and you are concerned about your risk of mesothelioma, we can help. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today to learn more. Our number is 1-800-692-8608.