|Disease Caused by Asbestos
Disease Caused by Asbestos
Asbestos fibers are aerodynamic and so small that one fiber cannot be seen by the naked eye. By the 1930s, researchers studying industrial disease realized that if workers could see dust from asbestos products in the air, that dust cloud probably contained millions of dangerous asbestos fibers.
The primary danger from asbestos is from breathing in asbestos fibers into the lungs. Asbestos dust is easily inhaled into the lungs because asbestos fibers are so small and aerodynamic. Once inhaled, some asbestos fibers will remain in the body forever.
Over long periods of time, inhaled asbestos fibers can cause life-threatening and fatal diseases listed below.
Malignant mesothelioma, which is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases, is a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen. The cause-and-effect relationship between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma is so close that this disease is a "signature" cancer because virtually nothing else causes it except asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is unrelated to cigarette smoking. It is always fatal, but patients may be helped by surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. The life expectancy of a person diagnosed with this disease is nine to 12 months. It often takes 25 to 45 years after the asbestos exposure for mesothelioma to develop. And even short asbestos exposures from 30 years ago are enough to cause mesothelioma.
This disease is a scarring of the lung tissue from microscopic asbestos fibers. It usually takes 20 years or more after asbestos exposure for asbestosis to develop. Symptoms include shortness of breath or impairment of normal breathing. Asbestosis may begin with no impairment, but in later stages can be debilitating or fatal. The disease usually is diagnosed after a physical examination, X-ray or breathing test.
Asbestos exposure causes various forms of lung cancer. Generally, lung cancer develops 20 to 30 years after regular exposure to asbestos. People exposed to asbestos have a five to 10 times greater risk of developing lung cancer than those with no exposure. And those exposed to asbestos who regularly smoke cigarettes face a 10 times greater risk of contracting lung cancer. For people who have had a significant asbestos exposure and also smoke, the risk of lung cancer is 50 to 90 times greater than normal.
This is a thickening of the lining of the lung that can impair breathing because thickening interferes with the lungs' ability to expand. Pleural disease can result from even brief asbestos exposure, but generally takes at least 15 years to develop after regular exposure. People who suffer from pleural disease are at higher risk of developing asbestosis or asbestos-related cancer.