When your child drives away on his school bus each morning, you’re no doubt hoping he stays safe until he returns home in the afternoon. Of all the dangers facing your child each day, there’s one you probably have never thought of – a danger that literally occurs where the rubber meets the road.

That school bus, along with every other vehicle that travels gravel roads, might be kicking up dust that contains erionite, a carcinogenic material that has been linked to a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. A recent study by the University of Hawaii Cancer Center showed that when mice were injected with erionite from gravel roads in North Dakota, the mice’s lungs showed signs of inflammation and abnormal cell growth, precursors to mesothelioma. That research team had previously linked erionite exposure to mesothelioma in some Turkish villages.

“Mesothelioma is an awful disease and something that we’ve heard a lot about in recent years,” explains attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV. “This new research shows that we really need to have our guards up.”

Mesothelioma is a cancer that forms in the mesothelium, the protective lining that covers many of the body’s internal organs. It often occurs in the outer lining of the lungs and the internal chest wall. Most people who develop mesothelioma have inhaled asbestos, often at work or home. Symptoms of mesothelioma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest wall pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing

Unfortunately, mesothelioma carries a poor prognosis. Asbestos is no longer used much in U.S. industry thanks to government regulations that began in the 1970s, but mesothelioma can have a long incubation period. Symptoms may not appear for up to 50 years after exposure to a substance like asbestos.

“If you were exposed to asbestos decades ago and have not developed mesothelioma symptoms, you could still be at risk,” says Houston, Texas personal injury attorney Sean Tracey of the Tracey Law Firm.

If you believe you have mesothelioma, you should see your doctor immediately. If you are diagnosed with the disease, your next call should be to a personal injury attorney. Every state has lawyers who specialize in mesothelioma cases, and they can help you receive money damages.

“If you were unknowingly exposed to asbestos years ago and have developed mesothelioma, you deserve to be compensated,” adds Tracey.

Thanks to new research, we now know that asbestos is not the only culprit. You should keep that in mind the next time you walk your child to the bus stop.