Breathing is the most common and easiest way for asbestos to enter the body, and materials that contain asbestos are not considered dangerous unless they are releasing fibers into the air that could be breathed in or ingested. These fibers become trapped within the mucus membranes in the throat and nose. They may be removed, but sometimes they travel deeper into the lungs or in the digestive tract. As they become trapped inside of the body, they will start to cause problems.
This progressive and chronic lung disease is caused by inhaling fibers of asbestos over long periods of time. Over time, these fibers cause scarring of the lungs which becomes hard and rigid, preventing the lungs from working properly. Persistent coughing, chest tightness, and breathlessness are just a few of the symptoms associated with the lack of oxygen. Asbestosis may get worse over time leading to respiratory failure as well as death, with no cure for the disease. It is diagnosed by a lung function test or an x-ray. This disease is not seen in those who have never worked with asbestos, and is not usually caused by long range exposure. The most risk is for those who are demolishing or renovating a building that contains asbestos. Precaution should be taken for those who are working in these types of buildings.
The tissue that is present to line the chest cavity and cover the surface of the lungs is called the pleura. Asbestos exposure will produce thick patches, called plaques, on the pleura or may cause sprawling fibrosis of the pleura, as well as fluid in the chest cavity. These pleural disorders are not cancerous, but they will show up on an x-ray for diagnosis. Although there may not be any outward symptoms, it will show a reduced lung capacity when tested through a lung function test.
This is a rare cancer that affects the pleura. This is where it beings, and then it will spread to the lungs and then to the chest walls. Although rare, it will sometimes make its way to the heart. Currently, there is no cure, and it is associated with long exposure to asbestos. Each year, there are about 200 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States. 65 year old David Hoff was just awarded $8.75 million in a mesothelioma lawsuit. The money covers his medical bills as well as his pain and suffering, past, present, and future. A product he used for work in the 70’s knowingly contained asbestos, thus exposing him to the harmful side effects many years later.
There is a significant risk of lung cancer in those who are exposed to a large amount of asbestos over an extended period of time, and this risk is actually substantially greater in those people who are smokers as well. After the tumor appears on the lung and is not treated, it will grow and spread over the lungs and eventually to the rest of the body. A persistent cough is the first sign of those who are diagnosed with lung cancer. After asbestos exposure, lung cancer may take anywhere from 10 to 20 years to develop. In one study, it was found that those who have worked around asbestos and also smoke are almost 90 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those people who have never been exposed to asbestos and do not smoke.
In the 1980’s, the majority of building materials were made with asbestos, exposing millions of young workers to the fibers during this period of time. People who have worked in drywall, insulation, home building, automotive engineering, and industrial manufacturing make up most in a list of those who are affected with asbestos related health problems and cancers. Because of this, many companies are facing lawsuits regarding their role in civilian exposure to cancer causing asbestos.