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The only proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is made up of tiny fibers that can be easily inhaled or ingested and remain in the body for a long time. When someone is exposed to asbestos, the fibers can become embedded in the lining of the lungs or other organs, causing damage and ultimately leading to mesothelioma. The link between mesothelioma and asbestos is so strong that it is considered a signature disease. In other words, if an individual develops mesothelioma it is presumed to have been caused by asbestos exposure. In most cases, a long history of exposure to asbestos exists.

Asbestos has been used throughout history, yet it was not mined for commercial use until the 19th century. People who have worked in certain industries are at the highest risk for being exposed to asbestos, including construction, shipbuilding, mining, and manufacturing. In addition, people who have lived near an asbestos mine, mill, or manufacturing plant may be at risk for developing mesothelioma. Asbestos was also commonly used in insulation, floor tiles, and other building materials until the late 1970s. People who have lived in older homes or buildings may have been exposed to asbestos in the past, increasing their risk of mesothelioma. In addition to asbestos exposure, other factors may increase a person’s risk of developing mesothelioma. These include certain genetic mutations, smoking, radiation exposure, and certain viruses.

Many companies knew the hazards of asbestos exposure yet did not warn those working with or using their products of any potential dangers associated with them. They knowingly put these people at risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma. Many individuals who are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease are able to file a claim or lawsuit against these companies. 

Today, asbestos still has not been banned in the United States. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have established very strict regulations and agree there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos to prevent the development of mesothelioma. The medical and scientific community agree that there is a dose-response relationship between the amount of exposure to asbestos an individual has and their increased risk of developing mesothelioma. Typically, the amount of exposure necessary for mesothelioma is less than the exposure required for asbestosis or lung cancer. Asbestos exposure affects people differently. This is known in the medical community as individual susceptibility. This is significant because some individuals may have substantially less exposure to asbestos than others and they still develop mesothelioma. For example, a wife who launders her husband’s clothing that is contaminated with asbestos may develop mesothelioma while her husband may not, even though he worked directly with a product that contains asbestos. In fact, most individuals who are exposed to asbestos do not develop an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.



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