Sean Marchese: The Dangers of Asbestos

About Sean Marchese: Shawn is a registered nurse at the Mesothelioma Center He has experience developing and managing respiratory oncology, clinical trials, and treatments. As a medical writer, he helps patients learn about new therapies in the fight against mesothelioma. 

In this episode, Steve and Sean discuss:

1. What is asbestos?

  • Asbestos is actually the name given to six different naturally occurring minerals. These minerals are found in the dirt and what makes them so dangerous is that they’re comprised of this friable fibrous needle-like material that is microscopic and can degrade and be released from these minerals pretty easily. Asbestos minerals that are mined from the ground were found to be resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. So they ended up being used in thousands of consumer products construction materials for over a century. 

2. Why is it that in the 70s and 80s ship workers, and a lot of blue-collar workers were coming down with asbestos? 

  • Blue-collar workers are the primary population that has been affected by this business over the years. And that’s because asbestos is linked to industrial engineering fields, and also the military. So the United States military has used as best as in their Navy ships primarily for decades. While they weren’t necessarily part of the cover-up of asbestos health issues that occurred throughout the 20th century, they definitely were using the material in many of their vessels and ships. Veterans actually make up a significant portion of about 30% of mesothelioma lawsuits. Again, blue-collar workers are the number one population to be affected by working in industries, such as mining, construction, all sorts of blue-collar fields.

3. Loads of asbestos have been found in housing in Europe specifically the UK United Kingdom. Why would they use it in housing or in the building materials?

  • Asbestos was primarily used for construction materials throughout the 20th century starting in like the 1920s 1930s. One of the big manufacturers was Turner and Newell over in Europe and they were using asbestos for roofing tiles as best as cement for piping, pretty much from top to bottom. Most housing materials can be traced back to having asbestos and again it’s because that material, those natural minerals are resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. They can be used in shingles in floor tiles and insulation because it was a great material to use at the time and the health benefits weren’t really brought to light until much later around the 1970s

4. Isn’t asbestos fire retardant or fire resistant?

  • Exactly, yes, that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular.

5. How did asbestos get into the Johnson and Johnson talcum powder product?

  • Johnson and Johnson were aware of asbestos in its talc dating back to the 1970s and, asbestos isn’t necessarily a useful product in talc, but talc that gets mined for products such as baby powder and makeup is sometimes cross-contaminated with asbestos mined in similar locations in the earth. So asbestos can end up in talc. Johnson and Johnson knew about asbestos in their talc, but they didn’t really make it public or do anything to help the production of these consumer products.

6. What are the health consequences of asbestos exposure?

  • Yeah, the primary disease related to asbestos exposure is Mesothelioma, and more than 3000 cases are diagnosed every year in the US and Mesothelioma is a type of cancer. Specifically, it’s a cancer of the Mesothelium, which is a type of tissue that lines the inside of the body. The most common type of mesothelioma is called pleural mesothelioma accounts for about 75% of the cases and that affects the lining, the tissue lining that surrounds the outside of the lungs, the chest wall, and the diaphragm. So most of the structures in the thoracic cavity have this tissue lining called the pleural mesothelioma. So tumors can form against the chest wall on the outside of the lungs on the top diaphragm and that’s pleural mesothelioma. There are other types as well.

7. Do the fibers from the asbestos fall to the bottom of the pleural region of the lungs and it’s dangerous because it gets to the bottom and inside where it’s can do the most damage?

  • Once it’s in the lungs, it can actually spread to any physical area of that plural tissue. So as the fibers get inhaled through the nose and mouth, they end up in the lungs, and they do fall to the bottom of the lungs, but they’re transported by the body through the lymphatic system, which is kind of like the drainage system of the circulatory system, and those fibers can’t escape outside of the lungs. The body can’t break them down, and they can’t go anywhere else. Instead, they cause inflammation, tissue scarring over the course of many years, several decades. So this disease builds up over time and sometimes symptoms appear 30-40 years later when it’s much too late to have caught it earlier.

8. You’re not going to inhale it and then show signs of it a couple of days later. It manifests itself decades later?

  • Correct. The earliest we’ve seen symptoms appear, or the formation of mesothelioma, from asbestos, is about 10 years. Typically, it’s about 20 to 30 years. 

9. What is the average age of the person who comes down with mesothelioma?

  • The average age of a mesothelioma patient is 69 years old. That’s primarily the age group that’s most affected because of that long latency period. So these people were affected during their working years, right from their 20s to their 40s. And then symptoms show about 30 years later, and that’s when they’re diagnosed with mesothelioma.

10. So once diagnosed with mesothelioma, what is the life expectancy?

  • It’s an insidious disease and mesothelioma patients survive for about 12 months on average after they’re diagnosed with aggressive treatment. If it’s caught early enough, survival can be up to two years. Sometimes patients do go into remission and can survive for multiple years after their diagnosis, but average life expectancy is about 12 months.

“Asbestosis is what happens when these asbestos fibers in the lungs just continually damage, kill, and scar healthy lung tissue.” —  Sean Marchese

To find out more about the National Injured Senior Law Center or to set up a free consultation go to or call 855-622-6530


Connect with Sean Marchese:  

Phone: 407-569-3185
Twitter: @TheMesoCenter
Facebook: The Mesothelioma Center
Website: Mesothelioma Center
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Show notes by Podcastologist: Kristen Braun

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