Mineral Wool and Silica Increases Risk of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight a recent study conducted by French researchers, which found that two types of common mineral fibers may increase the risk of mesothelioma. The two fibers, mineral wool and silica, are used abundantly in many of the same industries that used asbestos.

Previously, asbestos was the only known cause of mesothelioma, a cancer that develops in the mesothelial lining of the lungs, chest, heart, or abdomen. In their study, the French researchers aimed to determine if occupational co-exposure to asbestos, along with other fibers and particles, could modify the carcinogenic nature of asbestos. Specifically, they wanted to estimate the association between pleural mesothelioma, which is cancer of the lining surrounding the lungs and/or chest, and exposure to mineral wool and silica through occupation.

They studied nearly 2,000 males occupationally exposed to the three minerals compared with more than 2,300 controls. Comprehensive job histories and consequent exposure were collected through three French job exposure matrices.

Mineral wool is commonly used in the construction industry, as asbestos was, in piping, insulation, and marine applications. It is incredibly versatile, and is produced at high temperatures using granite, slag, and other materials. It does not burn or rot, and does not absorb moisture or odors, so is often used to make such products as asphalt and ceiling tiles.

Silica is another industrial matter, found organically from the earth’s crust. It is used globally every day, in an array of settings, such as construction, mining, maritime, agriculture, and manufacturing. Some occupations that involve drilling, cutting, sawing, or crushing of silica products can result in the inhalation of silica particles. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, this inhalation can lead to the development of debilitating and even fatal lung diseases. Among these include silicosis, lung cancer, and now, potentially, mesothelioma.

Occupations and industries previously associated with disabling silica exposure include sandblasting, mining, tunneling, cement cutting and demolition, masonry work, and granite cutting. Exposure has also been linked to other respiratory diseases, including emphysema and bronchitis, and certain kidney and immune system disorders. Measures to control silica exposure in American workplaces include engineering controls, administrative actions, exhaust ventilation, and containment methods. These control methods are required by law at all places of work that pose a risk of silica exposure throughout the country.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found a significant association between mesothelioma and mineral wool exposure after adjusting for possible asbestos exposure. The estimated odds ratio for silica exposure by itself were insignificant, however, co-exposure to asbestos and silica did increase the risk of mesothelioma, compared to the risk in those exposed to asbestos alone.

Researchers concluded that there is an increased risk of pleural mesothelioma in those workers exposed to asbestos and mineral wool or asbestos and silica. Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma and other illnesses by aggregation and chronic irritation of the mesothelial lining. Inhaling other fibers, such as silica or mineral wool, compounds this aggravating effect, perhaps leading to an increased susceptibility to disease development.

Some mineral wool manufacturing plants, such as RockWool Manufacturing Company in Alabama, used asbestos in its products until the late 1980s. As a result, many workers who manufactured Rock Wool products were also unknowingly exposed to asbestos while on the job. This company has been subject to many asbestos lawsuits over the past few years, filed by workers who developed mesothelioma. An Asbestos Resolution Trust was enacted to provide compensation to these victims, which now account for more than 140,000 people.

Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight this study to inform workers of the dangers they may be facing on the job. Dust, especially in construction and automotive industries, is not harmless. It can lead to the development of serious and life-threatening illnesses, especially when compounded with other fiber exposure. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos, silica, or mineral wool while on the job, you may be entitled to compensation through an occupational exposure lawsuit.