Tool and die makers help create the parts that make the world go round. They take metal, heat it up, and transform it into tools, small car parts, gears, and stamps. It’s hot, tedious work and workers in this industry fulfill their daily duties at great risk. Generally, the biggest concern tool and die setters have is getting burned. Prior to the 1980s, however, there was an invisible risk that has ruined the health of many tool and die makers.
Encountering Asbestos in the Workplace
Prior to changes in regulation in the 1980s, nearly everything in the average tool and die shop was covered in asbestos. It was one of the few materials available that was strong, flexible, and heat resistant. As a result, it was used to insulate nearly all the tools and the entire factory. It was even woven into the protective clothing the workers wore.
While the protective aprons, coveralls, and gloves did a wonderful job of protecting the tool and die setters’ skin from burns, each time the clothing caught on something and tore, microscopic asbestos fibers were released into the air. These fibers were then inhaled or ingested. They embedded themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart, and stomach, causing cancerous cells to form around them. Because the entire process can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years, it took the medical community a while to make the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos. Unfortunately, by the time the risks were known and regulation was put in place, many lives had been risked.
Mesothelioma is the most common illness connected to asbestos, however, it isn’t the only one. Lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos exposure, as well as asbestosis. Asbestos is a now classified as a carcinogen and studies are in progress to determine whether it can be linked to other cancers such as colorectal and esophageal cancers, among others.
One of the most discouraging things about mesothelioma is how long it takes to diagnose it. Often, doctors don’t suspect anything is wrong until a patient has entered the 3rd or 4th stage.
Early symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Chest pain
- Respiration problems
If you worked in a tool and die shop and have these symptoms, let your doctor know so she can screen for mesothelioma early. Early detection increases the odds of being able to successfully treat the condition with chemo, radiation, and surgery. By catching the disease in its early phases and using aggressive treatment, patients may be able to add 2 to 5 years to their life expectancy and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Due to the high number of mesothelioma cases in the United States, many businesses, including those in the tool and die industry, have created trusts that help cover the medical costs of former employees who’ve developed an asbestos-related illness. An experienced mesothelioma attorney will help you determine if you are eligible for financial help and explain your legal options to you.