Many people who worked as riggers have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other diseases connected to asbestos. It’s difficult to get a true idea of just how many riggers were impacted because it can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years following the exposure for the symptoms to develop. Even then, the asbestos-related diseases can be difficult to diagnose.
During the 20th Century, it’s estimated that more than 30 million tons of asbestos were used in various aspects of the oil industry, and riggers routinely came into contact with it, never dreaming that the fire-resistant fibers were embedding in their lungs and the tissue lining their heart. This invisible danger was laying the groundwork for serious future health problems. No one really understood the health threat posed by asbestos until the 1970s, by which point the health of millions of riggers was compromised.
Each year, approximately 3000 people will be diagnosed with mesothelioma, and professional riggers aren’t the only ones impacted. Since the fibers often clung to hair, skin, and clothing, riggers often inadvertently exposed their friends and family to the asbestos fibers.
It’s estimated that anyone who worked in either the construction or building industry between 1930-1980 was likely exposed to asbestos and should explore early screening options for signs of asbestos-related illnesses.
How Asbestos Damages the Body
When something made out of asbestos fibers, such as construction materials, brake pads, or insulation, is cut or torn, tiny fibers are released into the air. Eventually, the fibers are inhaled or ingested. Because of the shape, the body can’t expel the fibers. Over time, scar tissue forms of them and can eventually turn into malignant tumors.
Asbestos is most likely to wreak havoc in the lungs, but there have been cases of the fibers negatively impacting the colon, the abdomen, the kidneys, the pancreas, the chest cavity, the heart, the esophagus, and the larynx.
What Riggers Should Know About Mesothelioma
As of right now, there’s no known cure for malignant mesothelioma, however, doctors have successful slowed its advance and enabled patients to enjoy a high quality of life. Most riggers are about 73 years old when they’re diagnosed with malignant Mesothelioma, but the age can vary depending on the length of exposure. Men are 4 times more likely to develop Malignant Mesothelioma than women. It is unknown if this is due to an actual genetic difference in resistance levels or if it’s simply because men were more likely to work in jobs where asbestos exposure was prevalent.
The most popular methods for treating mesothelioma tumors are chemo, radiation, and surgery. Most patients require a combination of treatments. Early diagnosis can extend the patient’s life from 2-5 years on average, so it’s critical to have routine health screenings if you believe you were exposed. Most cases of malignant mesothelioma are diagnosed while the patient is seeing the doctor about another health concern.
If you worked as a rigger or spent any time around a rigger prior to 1980, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about getting screened for mesothelioma.