English Language discussion lesson plan about Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease
About Mesothelioma, asbestosis and cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
If you've been reading the newspapers you would see how popular this subject currently is for older students. Younger students who have relatives affected by it may also be interested.


Discuss what your student has heard about Mesothelioma in the media. 

What do they know about Asbestos, asbestosis, or Asbestos Disease? 

Do they know of anyone who has it? Other questions below.

Asbestos is a fribrous material used in building and construction that, if inhaled, can cause death in 15-40 years.

In Australia businesses cannot get workers compensation insurance without confirming that their workers/staff/employees won't be susceptible to asbestos poisoning.

Most buildings contain a lot of asbestos. As long as it is not disturbed it is believed to be safe. If the material becomes fibrous and escapes into the air then it may cause damage to the lung.

So, what is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a form of magnesium silicate. 

Why is it dangerous/hazardous?
Asbestos contains many microscopic fibres. If these fibres become airborne and are breathed in, it can cause asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma or cancer.

If it is so dangerous, why do we still use it?
Asbestos is fire retardant, strong and, if in a non-friable condition, safe. You can find it bound to floor tiles, insulation pipes, support beams and lots of other areas around the house and office. It is only unsafe if it becomes friable. If you're able to turn it to powder just by crushing it in your hand it has become friable and is dangerous.

Why are we hearing about it in the news?
The diseases caused by friable asbestos have a long latency period. This means that you won't know you've got it until 15-40 years after exposure. So many people who worked with asbestos materials 40 years ago are now suing the companies that employed them over the fact that they're dying of mesothelioma, asbestosis or cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that forms in the pleura (the outer lining of the lung) the pericardium (the lining around the heart) and the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) It takes about 15-30 years to form.

What is Asbestosis?
If fibres are inhaled they can get trapped in the lung. The lung produces a chemical to dissolve the fibre but because Asbestos is so strong, the chemical damages the lung. The lung continues to try and dissolve the fibre eventually destroying itself in the process. It takes 25-40 years to form.

And Asbestos can cause cancer?
Yes, it can cause cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.

What if I think I have an Asbestos related disease?
If you suspect that you may have Mesothelioma, or an asbestos related illness, please contact your Doctor immediately. They may send you to a specialist who will organise for your tissue samples to be sent to pathology for analysis. If caught early there is a higher chance of successful treatment.
You can then lead into a recent news article about another case of an employee suing their employer and what your student thinks about the situation. Would they boycott the products of the company who allowed their staff to be affected by asbestos? Because of the potential payouts from employees, a lot of lawyers and solicitors have represented these cases. How does your student feel about this? If they had the chance what would they do about it?

Please note: This is just a guide for discussion in an English conversation practice lesson. It is not to be used for medical diagnosis or reference. If you suspect you may have an asbestos related illness, contact your Doctor today. 

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