Asbestosis is an incurable disease directly attributed to the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The fibers penetrate and lodge themselves in the alveoli, the air sacs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood. This causes fibrosis, or scar tissue, to form, which interferes with the alveoli’s ability to deliver oxygen to the blood. Much like scarring on the outer skin of the body, scarred lung tissue does not look or function properly.
Most victims of asbestosis contracted the disease occupationally, before
the federal regulation of asbestos begun in the late 1970s. Occupations
associated with asbestosis include aircraft and auto mechanics, construction
workers, shipyard workers and boiler operators.
Asbestosis attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm emphasize the importance of preventing occupational
asbestos exposure. Other diseases such as mesothelioma and gastrointestinal
and lung cancer are the result of such exposure and those affected are
entitled to asbestos claims against those responsible.
A study by Occupational and Environmental Medicine aimed to chart the neurological abnormalities in asbestosis patients in relation to cancer possibility. Nervous system disturbances are often reported to be associated with cancer, which asbestosis patients have a high risk of developing. For the study, researchers randomly selected typical asbestosis patients: insulators, asbestos cement factory workers, and asbestos sprayers. They were given routines standardized neurological tests over a period of two years. The cohort comprised 105 men and 10 women. Their mean age at the time of the neurological examination was 56 (range 32-76) years. They had been exposed to asbestos for an average of 21 (range 3-47) years. The mean time between the diagnosis of asbestosis and the neurological examination was eight (range 1-34) years.
This neurological examination focused particularly on the subtle clinical signs of slight dysfunction of both the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). Difficulties in memory and recall, disturbances in drive and impulses, and general symptoms of organic brain damage were assessed. The examination of the PNS included tests for motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves.
During the total (15 years) follow up time 47 of 115 patients (41 %) developed cancer, of which 34 had lung cancer. Other cancers were three mesotheliomas, two pancreatic and thyroid cancers and one oesophageal, colon, bile duct, renal, and brain cancer and one lymphosarcoma. Of the patients with asbestosis with cancer 29 had CNS or PNS disturbances. The highest incidence was found for the patients with CNS disturbances, of whom 68% had cancer at the end of the follow up.
For all cancer types the significant predictors were radiographic progression of asbestosis and CNS disturbances. 41% of the patients with progression and 10% of those without progression had cancer. 49% of those with CNS disturbances and 25% of those without CNS disturbances developed cancer.
Occupation had a tendency to be a significant predictor.36% of the asbestos insulators and asbestos sprayers, 17% of the asbestos quarry workers, and 9% of the asbestos factory workers had cancer.
Analysis of the predictors associated with cancer morbidity in five year
periods showed that CNS disturbances were significantly associated with
development of cancer. There were no associations of age or disturbances
of the PNS with cancer.
Symptoms such as memory disturbances, tiredness, sensory disturbances, and clumsiness were more common among the patients with asbestosis and fibrosing alveolitis than among patients with chronic solvent poisoning. Therefore, it seems justified to conclude that the patients with asbestosis actually had an unusually high prevalence of disturbances of the nervous system. The possible explanations for this are that underlying asbestosis or some biological changes related to it somehow cause disturbances of the nervous system.
Asbestosis patients have a high cumulative risk for cancer. This unfortunate fact is made even more troubling by the knowledge that their initial diagnosis of asbestosis was the result of occupational asbestos exposure. Asbestosis attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm emphasize that asbestos exposure is not exclusive to occupation, however. Families of those workers are also at risk, as are those residing in communities near factories that use asbestos in their manufacturing. If you suspect development of asbestosis or any related disease, contact an asbestos attorney immediately to discuss your potential compensation.