Asbestos is not a contagious virus but according to the journal Respirology Case Reports, you can get asbestos through secondary exposure, for example when someone inadvertently brings the fibers home in their clothes.
Asbestos is the generic name for naturally occurring fibers that were commonly used in construction for insulation and heat resistance. It was also used in ship-building and automotive manufacturing.
After the mid-1970s, researchers discovered that asbestos is a carcinogen, or causes cancer. Since then, most manufacturers do not use asbestos.
Breathing in asbestos dust is linked to a greater risk of lung cancer, asbestosis, and malignant mesothelioma.
How You Can Be Exposed to Asbestos
The most common ways to be exposed to asbestos include:
- As a firefighter or first responder when asbestos is burning
- As a construction worker who is removing, repairing, or renovating a building that contains asbestos
- As a homeowner or office worker in a building where asbestos is crumbling or deteriorating
Many older homes and offices contain asbestos in their pipes, walls, and floors.
Why Asbestos Is Hazardous to People
People exposed to large amounts of asbestos are at greater risk of developing lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. They are also more likely to develop malignant mesothelioma. This type of cancer starts in the lining surrounding the lungs (called the pleura).
Touching asbestos is probably not enough direct contact to be a risk factor. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the people most at risk for asbestos exposure are construction workers and first responders.
Asbestos Dust and Airborne Particulars Are Hazardous
The greatest risk of asbestos exposure is when it becomes airborne:
- Tiny asbestos fibers and dust are stored in the tiny sacs inside your lungs.
- These fibers and particulates irritate and scar your lungs.
- Over time, your lungs become less flexible, making them work harder to take in oxygen and push out carbon dioxide.
- Eventually, you will have trouble breathing as your lungs become weaker and less effective.
Smoking may accelerate lung damage related to asbestos exposure.
How to Protect Yourself From Exposure
You have a right to a safe workplace and proper equipment to protect you from asbestos exposure.
Construction workers who are removing asbestos should be given personal protective equipment or PPE. This equipment may include:
- Respirator face masks with a filtered cartridge that can purify the air and help keep you from inhaling asbestos dust
- Eye wear such as safety goggles or safety glasses to avoid asbestos from entering your eyes
- Disposable coveralls or a hazmat suit to protect you from asbestos dust and debris
- Disposable work gloves and rubber boots
The average person should never attempt to remove asbestos from a structure. There are certified companies that can safely remove asbestos for you, but you will need to steer clear until their work is complete. This can also help you not give asbestos to someone else.
Asbestosis Is a Serious Condition
Some people develop asbestosis. Although you can get asbestos from someone else, you cannot catch asbestosis from another person. Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition caused by repeated exposure to asbestos.
People with asbestosis are more likely to develop lung cancer. They also have a higher risk of developing a rare form of cancer called malignant mesothelioma, which attacks the tissue around the lungs.
Signs and Symptoms of Asbestosis
It takes time and repeated exposure to asbestos to develop asbestosis. Once you have this condition, you can only be treated to help relieve the pain and discomfort. There is no cure for asbestosis.
The most common indicators of asbestosis according to the Mayo Clinic are:
- A persistent, dry cough
- Feeling short of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Losing weight without trying
- Noticing that your fingertips and toes look wider and more rounded than normal (this is called clubbing)
- A feeling of tightness across your chest
Your doctor will probably give you a physical exam and listen to your lungs using a stethoscope. If you have asbestosis, your doctor will probably hear a crackling sound from your lungs as you inhale and exhale. This is from the scarring and irritation of long-term asbestos exposure.
What You Can Do if You Were Exposed to Asbestos
If you were exposed to asbestos and were diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma, you could be entitled to recover damages from the liable party. A lawyer with the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will evaluate your case for free and help you understand your legal options, including if you got asbestos from someone else.
Our firm works on a contingency fee basis meaning we do not receive payment unless you receive a settlement in your case. Please call a member of our team today for a free case evaluation at (800) 794-0444.