Short-term Asbestos Exposure Triggers Mesothelioma

Short-term Asbestos Exposure

The recent death of a British man from mesothelioma is evidence of the destructive power of asbestos – even when exposure is short. 

A British newspaper reports that Welwyn resident Roger Beale first began experiencing a classic symptom of mesothelioma, shortness of breath, nearly 4 years ago. Beale first noticed the problem while walking up stairs. After a chest X-ray, Beale’s symptoms were attributed to a chest infection. 

But when his symptoms continued to worsen, Beale sought medical care again in January, 2010 and was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, an intractable cancer of the lung lining that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. By November of 2010, Beale’s shortness of breath had gotten worse, despite regular monitoring and treatment and he died at the age of 67. 

Although mesothelioma is alarmingly common in the UK, the region with the world’s highest per capita rate of the cancer, Beale’s case was unique. To his knowledge, his only known exposure to the asbestos dust that triggered his mesothelioma occurred in 1967 for only two to three days. It was during that time that Beale worked in a factory where he was required to cut asbestos with a circular saw. Without protection, Beale likely inhaled a substantial amount of the deadly asbestos dust that is the primary cause of mesothelioma. 

“He had no mask and no protection,” Coroner Edward Thomas reportedly said at the inquest. “It [asbestos dust] was on his clothes when he went home. I am satisfied that he had a quite substantial exposure to asbestos.” Unlike other types of dust particles, asbestos fibers stay in the lungs, causing irritation and inflammation that can result in mesothelioma decades later. Thomas told the paper that Beale’s symptoms were “entirely compatible with what we know about the disease.”

The case highlights the serious danger inherent in even short-term exposure to asbestos, a once-popular building material that is still present in thousands of older homes and buildings. In the UK, blue and brown asbestos were banned in 1985. The importation, sale or reuse of white asbestos was not outlawed until 1999. More than 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK each year. 


“Man killed by asbestos dust exposure for just ‘two to three days’… 46 years ago”, August 4, 2013, the Welwyn Hatfield Times online.

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