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Mother’s Diagnosis Reminds of Danger of Environmental Exposure to Asbestos


A mother of three children said her terminal cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos on the playground when she was a child. Asbestos causes cancer in humans including lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs.

Penny Garner, 45, who lives in Manchester, England, was diagnosed with lung cancer caused by asbestos 18 months ago after suffering chest pains and initially being misdiagnosed with a pulled chest muscle and then pneumonia. According to the Manchester Evening News, Garner’s doctors eventually identified the cancer and asked her when she had worked with asbestos.

She recalled in a newspaper article spending playtimes while a primary school student in the 1970s watching builders demolish the historic Seedley baths next to the school, after asbestos was discovered in them. Garner said it was terrifying that she could develop a serious disease from playing in the school yard.

Garner said while her condition is stable at present, she has been told that her illness is terminal and is living in limbo between the tests she has to have every two months. The former seamstress said she tried to carry on a normal routine as much as possible for her children, but is very difficult.

Penny Garner’s tragic story underscores the fact that people may develop mesothelioma and lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers in the surrounding environment. And while most people diagnosed with asbestos disease are older workers and veterans, young people also may develop the disease.

Workplace exposure to asbestos is more common than environmental exposure. But families of asbestos workers and people exposed to asbestos in the environment are susceptible to mesothelioma and asbestos disease.

According to the National Cancer Institute, while it’s clear that health risks from asbestos exposure increase with longer duration of exposure, researchers have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposure to asbestos. Asbestos disease has a long latency period of 20 years to 40 years before cancer symptoms appear.

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