"I was an electrician on navy ships in the '50s, mainly working in the boiler-room with asbestos insulation," says Frank. "We worked around piping where the wires were located and the pipes were covered in asbestos; we bumped them and knocked white dust into the air. I was aboard ship for almost four years and did this work day in, day out.
When I got out of the service I worked for Hercules Inc., a manufacturer of pigment—base colors used in paints. I was a carpenter millwright and our job was to maintain machinery. Part of the work we did involved cutting asbestos blocks; we wore minimal safety gear--the flimsy respirators didn't help much—we just took them off and we would be covered in white asbestos dust. The quality of respirators back then wasn't like today.
But I have to say that the company did what they thought was right at the time-- by even providing them. The exhaust fans didn't take the dust out—the rooms would be thick like a white cloud. After that, I became shop foreman and part of my job was supervising pipe fitters. And they worked with asbestos! It was a bad period -- an awful lot of people worked with this material, it was insidious back in those days.
Eventually the plant closed and I retired. A doctor was first to notice my respiratory problems in the early 1990s; I was getting some pre-op testing done for minor sinus surgery. When x-rays were taken of my lungs, some spots were found so I was sent for a CAT-Scan. One week later the results came back: asbestos spots on my lungs.
To tell the truth, I didn't think too much of it at the time. Even with that diagnosis, I didn't realize how serious this was. I am 69 and in pretty good shape, no major illnesses; but I got out of breath easily...
I've had a few more CAT-Scans since then and the spots are starting to change. There is now a thickening in the bottom of my lungs. I didn't really dwell too much on my health and general well-being until now. I am scheduled to go next week for a complete pulmonary work-up and another CAT-Scan.
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When I found out about the asbestos spots, I immediately went online—I've now learned a lot about asbestosis and wish I had paid attention years ago. I think it is appalling that asbestos is still prevalent in so many industries. And I'm sure that many people are still working around asbestos like I did, they don't realize the repercussions. I wish I knew this sooner because my father had the same problem.
Although he died from congestive heart failure, my dad worked as a pipefitter--around asbestos most of his life. I'm not aware that he had lung cancer but that also doesn't mean that he didn't have it. I also discovered that mesothelioma can live with you and stay dormant for so many years."