Risk information is often communicated to the public through the workplace, the media, and personal experience. For the mass media, news about risks can easily gain one’s attention, even when the risk news story is incomplete. Illnesses associated with asbestos exposure are often communicated in daytime television commercials. Mesothelioma lawyers advertise their service by discussing the risks associated with occupational asbestos-exposure, symptoms, and the possibility of being entitled to monetary damages. Interestingly, lawyers rarely offer their service to asbestos-related lung cancer patients, since lung cancer is often associated with smoking history and to prove a case would be time-consuming and confounded.
Generally, the public’s perception of asbestos are derived from popular media stories. For instance, in the Baltimore Sun, a medical physician reported that ‘whether [asbestos] is pulled out of a mountain, scraped off a steam pipe or shed from a brake shoe, asbestos causes cancer’ (Schneider, 2006). Although the points made are true, to the reader, a statement like this would instantly cause alarm, even though it fails to discuss any of the factors that influence the potency of asbestos fibres. As a result, stakeholders will identify specific concerns about asbestos without ever having analyzed the accuracy of the reported data. In fact, many non-scientifically literate individuals on the internet still hold the view that ‘one fibre of asbestos can kill,’ which holds no scientific validation.
Furthermore, since most asbestos-related diseases are correlated to elevated concentrations on the job, asbestos-related health risks are often communicated to stakeholders prior to first starting a job, by taking part in mandatory training sessions to help reduce exposure potential. Stakeholders working in factories that have adopted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, and whose duties require them to perform maintenance or custodial work must learn and follow general precautions like those listed in Table 5. In the 1970’s, the mean concentration of fibres in the mining and milling industries in Québec, Canada, often exceeded 20 fibres/mL. Owing to the success of risk communication and the introduction of monitoring methods, average fibre concentrations are now less than 1.0 fibre/mL and continue to decline substantially (IPCS, 1998). Thus, asbestos risk is well communicated and, to some degree, successful in making stakeholders aware of inherent risks.