When 39-year-old Kris Penny woke up in the hospital after experiencing shooting stomach pains one September morning last year, he didn't know why his wife was crying. "What's the matter? I'm still here," he tried to comfort her. The flooring company contractor quickly learned that a surgeon had just discovered cancer littering his abdomen, and when the results came in four days later his prognosis was grim: Penny had peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, report the Center for Public Integrity and NPR. Penny has determined that he breathed in microscopic asbestos fibers 10 years ago when he did work installing fiber-optic cable housed in underground pipe made of asbestos-laden cement, and he has sued AT&T.
While the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma is below 3,000 annually, some warn that a "third wave" of cases is here and set to intensify. The first wave claimed mostly miners and millers, the second insulators and shipbuilders, and now it is being disturbed in ceiling tiles, pipes, automobile brakes, and so forth, claiming a wider and younger range of victims. Indeed, the Courier Mail last month cited research that has found a "growing proportion" of mesothelioma sufferers were exposed in the home, not on the job. In Australia, martial arts champion Adam Sager was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006 and died less than a year later; he was only 25, and his parents were "devastated" when they learned they'd accidentally exposed him as a baby while remodeling their first home, reports AAP News. "Investigate before you renovate," one advocate warns. As for Penny, after chemo and several operations, he's still alive; most patients with his cancer live a year or two. (One of Downton Abbey's stars just lost her fiance to a rare cancer.)