Asbestos, long praised for its adaptability and ability to withstand fire, is now known for its harmful effects on health. Prolonged exposure to this mineral can result in various diseases, which can be dangerous in the long run. This article discusses the diseases caused by asbestos exposure in detail and why it is important to protect yourself from this harmful mineral.
Overview of Asbestos
Asbestos fibers are needle-shaped mineral silicates utilized in various industries and building materials due to their fire-resistant and insulating qualities. In the 20th century, asbestos was extensively employed in industries such as construction, shipbuilding, and automobiles. Its adaptability made it a desirable material for flooring, insulation, and various other uses. However, it soon became apparent that exposure to asbestos causes serious health concerns.
Asbestos fibers can become airborne when disturbed or damaged, such as during the repair or destruction of buildings that contain asbestos materials. Once in the air, these tiny fibers can be accidentally inhaled by nearby individuals. Repeated or prolonged exposure to asbestos can then result in serious diseases, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other respiratory problems.
Diseases Caused by Asbestos Exposure
One of the most widely recognized illnesses associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. The mesothelium is a barrier that covers the lungs, heart, and other internal organs. Asbestos fibers can become embedded in the mesothelium, leading to cellular changes that ultimately result in the development of malignant tumors.
Chest discomfort, breathlessness, unexplained weight loss, and chronic coughing are typical symptoms of mesothelioma. Early identification of mesothelioma is challenging since symptoms may not be apparent until years after exposure. Unfortunately, it is often discovered in an advanced stage in most cases, leaving very limited treatment options. However, medical support is still possible. In fact, you can also work with mesothelioma lawyers to file a lawsuit if you feel negligence was involved.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung illness resulting from prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. Inhaling these particles may lead to inflammation and scarring as they become lodged in the small air sacs of the lungs. This scarring progressively diminishes lung function, giving rise to severe breathing problems.
Common indicators of asbestosis include chest tightness, chronic coughing, and shortness of breath. Given that these symptoms may manifest decades after exposure, early detection of the disease can be challenging. Unfortunately, there is no cure for asbestosis once it has developed. Therefore, medical interventions primarily concentrate on managing symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life.
- Lung Cancer
Exposure to asbestos is a common cause of lung cancer. Inhaling asbestos fibers can damage the lining cells of the lungs, leading to the development of malignant tumors. Common symptoms of lung cancer include chest discomfort, persistent coughing, wheezing, and coughing up blood. While the symptoms of asbestos-induced lung cancer are similar to those caused by other factors, early detection and prompt treatment are crucial in preventing further health complications.
According to a 2020 research publication, asbestos is a contributing factor in 37.5% of all cases of occupational lung cancer. The risk of developing this cancer is even higher among individuals who smoke, as smoking impairs the lungs’ ability to eliminate asbestos fibers. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that individuals who have been exposed to asbestos quit smoking immediately and undergo annual screenings to detect any early signs of cancer risk.
- Pleural Plaques
Pleural plaques are soft, benign growths that form on the walls of the chest cavity and lungs. They are commonly caused by asbestos exposure and may not exhibit obvious symptoms. However, pleural plaques indicate prior asbestos exposure and an increased risk of developing severe asbestos-related disorders, such as mesothelioma.
Pleural plaques may emerge 10 to 30 years after the initial exposure to asbestos, making them challenging to track. Patients exposed to asbestos with pleural plaques may also develop pleural thickening, a condition that hinders the expansion of the lungs. Pleural thickening can lead to difficulty in breathing, chest pain, and a persistent cough. If these symptoms persist, it is important to notify your doctor promptly.
- Pleural Effusion
Pleural effusion occurs when fluid builds up in the pleural space, the area between the lung and the chest wall. While this is a rare non-malignant condition, prolonged exposure to asbestos can inflame the pleura, leading to the gradual accumulation of fluid. Pleural effusion itself is not carcinogenic, but it can serve as an indicator of other illnesses associated with asbestos, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Prevention and Treatment
The first and foremost protective measure against the above-mentioned illnesses is preventing asbestos exposure. Before its risks were recognized, asbestos was commonly used in industry and construction. Many nations have now severely restricted or outright banned its usage. However, older structures and infrastructure may still contain materials with asbestos.
When handling or renovating potentially asbestos-containing materials, it’s important to take precautions and seek expert assistance, especially if you work in a field where asbestos exposure is possible or if you reside in a house constructed before the 1980s. Furthermore, creating awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure is essential to shield future generations from its adverse consequences.
Exposure to asbestos poses a significant threat to an individual’s overall health. Contact with asbestos fibers has been conclusively linked to some serious conditions, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural plaques, and pleural effusion. Early identification, proactive prevention, and the implementation of strict regulations on asbestos usage can help mitigate the prevalence of these illnesses.
To safeguard your health, it is important to be proactive. If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos, do not hesitate – seek medical assistance immediately. Reach out to a healthcare expert to discuss your concerns, ensuring that any potential risks are promptly addressed and managed. Lastly, get in touch with qualified lawyers to make sure you receive the financial compensation you deserve.