According to a new report by the Environmental Working Group Action fund of Washington, D.C., Maine is the state with the country’s largest rate of mesothelioma cancer. This cancer is caused by asbestos exposure.
“12,000 to 15,000 people across the U.S. die from asbestos-related diseases every year,” said Sonya Lunder, the fund’s Senior Analyst. “It’s really surprising because there were steps taken to limit people’s asbestos exposure decades ago. But because of the long lag time between when you’re exposed to asbestos and when it may kill you, we have not seen any decline in asbestos-related deaths over the last 15-year period.”
An estimated 20 million people in the U.S. are at risk of developing mesothelioma at some point in their lives, but the “long lag time,” aka the latency period, between their first exposure and the cancer’s development is typically 20-40 years. The average age at which a person is diagnosed is 74 for males and 71 for females.
This latency period also means that the disease is not detected until symptoms arise. Often, by that time, the cancer has unfortunately spread from the primary area to other parts of the body.
Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year, both in the U.S. and throughout the world, many of whom may not even know they were at risk. Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with the cancer annually across the nation and 43,000 people die each year across the globe.
Lunder also stated that asbestos exposure often occurs on-the-job, i.e., boat building, and can reside in our environment in places such as attic insulation and talcum powder.
In fact, a mesothelioma patient was recently awarded $13 million in damages due to talcum powder. She had used Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet, which resulted in a large exposure to asbestos over time. The product was made with asbestos mined in Montana, North Carolina, and Northern Italy.
Overall, early detection of mesothelioma cancer is important, as there is a strong correlation between the age of diagnosis and survival. Every case is a little bit different, and although the survival rate for mesothelioma victims has traditionally been grim, more and more patients are living longer with the disease as scientists discover new and more effective ways to detect and treat it.