Asbestos is associated with a variety of illnesses, many of which affect the lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asbestos can cause health problems, including:
- Asbestosis – This condition is scarring on the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is not cancerous, but scarring on the lungs can make it hard to breathe.
- Pleural disease – This is another non-cancerous condition. Pleural disease develops in the membrane around the lungs and chest, known as the pleura. Asbestos exposure can cause a thickening of this membrane or fluid buildup around the lungs. Side effects may include breathing problems and decreased lung function.
- Lung cancer – This is the development of malignant tumors in the lungs. Asbestos exposure combined with smoking can significantly increase the risk of lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma – This rare form of cancer is almost always linked to asbestos exposure, according to the CDC. It can affect the pleura or the membrane surrounding the abdomen, known as the peritoneum. Some very rare forms of mesothelioma develop in the lining around the heart (pericardium) and testicles (tunica vaginalis).
The Signs and Symptoms of Health Problems Caused by Asbestos
Illnesses related to asbestos can take years to develop. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, it could take up to 10 to 40 years before symptoms of asbestos exposure are present. Symptoms will differ, depending on the type of illness you have. Because most asbestos-related conditions affect the lungs, common signs include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and/or difficulty breathing.
People with pleural mesothelioma may also experience sudden weight loss and discover lumps under the skin on the chest. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the abdomen, may cause abdominal pain and swelling, and nausea.
How Asbestos-Related Diseases Are Diagnosed and Treated
If you know you have been exposed to asbestos, especially if the exposure was frequent, you should be on the alert for potential signs of asbestos-related illnesses. Let your doctor know about any exposure so they can be alert for any signs or symptoms of diseases that asbestos caused.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will discuss your symptoms and conduct a physical exam. They may use X-rays or CT scans to obtain images of your lungs, chest, or belly. Once asbestos has damaged the lungs or abdomen, the harm cannot be reversed. Lung cancer or mesothelioma may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, there is no cure for mesothelioma. Your doctor may also recommend drug treatments, oxygen therapy, and other palliative measures to help you manage your symptoms and live longer.
The best way to prevent asbestos-related illnesses is to prevent or limit asbestos exposure.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in the environment. The fibrous material is non-conductive and resistant to chemicals, fire, and heat. For these reasons, it has been widely used in some industries for its insulating properties.
How People Come into Contact with Asbestos
Primarily, people encounter asbestos in the workplace or through products containing asbestos. Asbestos has been found in some products made with talc, as asbestos mines and talc mines often naturally occur near one another, allowing for cross-contamination.
Many building and construction materials contain asbestos, especially those made before 1989, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned new uses of asbestos, according to the NCI. Products that may contain asbestos include:
- Building insulation
- Pipe insulation
- Roofing materials
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Garden products containing vermiculite
- Vehicle brakes and clutch pads
Asbestos was once used in hairdryers, and trace amounts have even been found in crayons made with talc and talc-based body powders.
Occupations with a high asbestos exposure risk include electricians, plumbers, mechanics, shipyard workers, and insulators. Anyone who is demolishing or remodeling an old home or building may come into contact with asbestos.
Efforts should be made both in the workplace and during construction projects to limit exposure and stop the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Those who work around asbestos should wear protective equipment. If you suspect asbestos is in your home or building, consult a professional about its removal.
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You Could Be Entitled to Compensation in Your Asbestos Case
If you or a loved one has an asbestos-related illness, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm may be able to help you seek financial recovery. An attorney may be able to help you seek awards for your medical care, physical pain, emotional suffering, lost wages, and more.
To find out more about how an attorney might assist you, call our offices at (800) 217-6099 for a no-cost consultation.