While science and technology have brought about many advancements that are helping to prolong life, some of those advancements were introduced before it was fully understood the kind of long term effect and impact they would have on humans. While we now understand and fully believe the direct link between cigarettes and lung cancer and other respiratory issues, at one time cigarettes were actually recommended by doctors – or at least advertised as such. Here are 3 types of ultimately unsafe materials that the elderly were once exposed to and are suffering for how.
Asbestos has been mined for more than 4,000 years, but not on a large scale until the late 1800’s. At that time, scientists became aware of certain properties like its sound absorption, tensile strength, resistance to fire, heat, and electricity and correlated that to its use as a bundling material. Most of all however, asbestos mining was driven by one all-important factor its low cost. Asbestos was used in a wide variety of building applications ranging from wiring to insulation and continued to find its way into more and more materials until the late 20th century when the public finally began to become informed of the extreme health hazards that asbestos exposure presented. Some of these health issues include lung cancer, mesothelioma, and a type of respiratory issue known as asbestosis. By the 1990’s asbestos usage had been almost completely banned, but that didn’t solve all of the health issues of those that had suffered heavy asbestos exposure prior to that time.
According to the US EPA, after cigarette smoking, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer. In addition, there is a strong symbiosis between radon exposure and smoking, which causes smokers exposed to radon to have a far higher likelihood of developing lung cancer. Radon can even cause lung cancer on its own and is the #1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Most buildings contain some level of radon, but the greatest danger is to those that actually work in radon mines. Radon exposure is limited by proper ventilation systems in mines, but in the 1940’s and 50’s, these regulations were largely overlooked or ignored. Reform didn’t take place until the late 1970’s, which means that many workers during that time are now most likely struggling with or at high risk of developing lung cancer.
3. Nuclear Energy
Nuclear plants were first built in the US in the late 1940’s and early 50’s. Like all modern technology, little was understood about the long term effects of exposure to even the smallest levels of radiation. Unlike asbestos, which has been largely banned in most building materials and is unlikely to affect future generations, nuclear power plants are not only alive and well, but are expanding around the globe. Nuclear healthcare is a specialized field due to the wide variety of diseases and issues that energy workers can develop. Unlike asbestos and radon, which almost solely affect the lungs and respiratory systems, workers from nuclear energy plants can develop a wide range of health issues related to their exposure, ranging from heavy metal poisoning to cardiovascular diseases to several different types of cancer.