Asbestos Related Diseases

People who have been exposed to asbestos may develop diseases later. Find out what diseases are linked to asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is a popular mineral fiber considered to be an ideal construction material. Commonly used for insulation and as a fire retardant, asbestos has fiber strength and heat resistant properties which makes it a key material for manufactured goods. Asbestos in the 19th century and early 20th century was also known to have high electrical resistance and is something very inexpensive. Because of this asbestos can be used in a wide range of products such as in asbestos cement sheets and pipes, roofing, insulation, boilers, building materials, gaskets, plastics, electrical fillings, textiles, floor tiles, clutch and brake linings, and more.

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The problem is when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged by remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne. These fibers, when inhaled into the lungs by people working or living in an environment that is exposed to these substances, can cause significant health problems. These health problems can be a number of serious diseases such as cancers, like mesothelioma and lung cancer, and also other non-malignant lung diseases such as pleural plaques, pleural thickening and even asbestosis.

Malignant diseases are those involving neoplasms, also known as cancer growths, which can metastasize spreading to other organs in the body. While benign diseases are those considered not cancerous, they are certainly not considered to be harmless as they can be fairly life-threatening as well.

Diseases linked to asbestos exposure:

Mesothelioma – a form of cancer on the lining of the lungs called pleura and chest cavity called mesothelial lining. Mesothelioma has no association with smoking. The only known and established cause for this sickness is exposure to asbestos and other substances having similar fibers.

Cancer – cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, larynx and kidney have all been linked to exposure to asbestos.

Asbestosis – a sickness defined by the scarring of the lung tissue from an acid produced by the body’s attempt to break down and dissolve asbestos fibers. This lung disease is commonly found in textile workers, with a latency period of anywhere between 10-20 years depending on the time it takes for the disease to develop. Asbestosis can be diagnosed by a lung function test or even by x-ray.
Clinical symptoms of asbestosis usually include slowly progressing shortness of breath and cough. Breathlessness may even advance throughout the disease even without further exposure or inhalation of asbestos. Other known indications of asbestos over exposure include abnormal lung sounds; Clubbing, or changes in the ends of the fingers and toes; Cor Pulmonale or the failure of the right side of the heart; and Cyanosis which is characterized as having a blue tinge to the fingers or lips.

Pleural disorders – defined where asbestos properties may produce thickened patches on the pleura which are the tissues that lines the chest cavity and covers the surface of the lungs or pleural plaques; or fluid in the chest cavity that can be defined as a widespread fibrosis of the pleura and pleural effusions.