Just how dangerous is asbestos exposure?
Significant exposure to any type of asbestos will increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma and nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, including asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and pleural effusions. This is based on observations of these diseases in groups of workers with cumulative exposures ranging from about 5 to 1,200 fiber-year/mL. The conclusion is supported by results from animal and mechanistic studies.
Tobacco smokers who have been exposed to asbestos have a "far greater-than-additive" risk for lung cancer than do nonsmokers who have been exposed, meaning the risk is greater than the individual risks from asbestos and smoking added together. The time between diagnosis of mesothelioma and the time of initial occupational exposure to asbestos commonly has been 30 years or more.
1. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, most fibers are expelled, but some can become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life. Fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation. Enough scarring and inflammation can affect breathing, leading to disease.
2. People are more likely to experience asbestos-related disorders when they are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos, are exposed for longer periods of time, and/or are exposed more often.
3. Inhaling longer, more durable asbestos fibers (such as tremolite and other amphiboles) contributes to the severity of asbestos-related disorders.
4. Exposure to asbestos, including tremolite, can increase the likelihood of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant lung conditions such as asbestosis (restricted use of the lungs due to retained asbestos fibers) and changes in the lung lining.
5. Changes in the lining of the lungs (pleura) such as thickening, plaques, calcification, and fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) may be early signs of asbestos exposure. These changes can affect breathing more than previously thought. Pleural effusion can be an early warning sign for mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs).
6. Most cases of asbestosis or lung cancer in workers occurred 15 years or more after the person was first exposed to asbestos.
7. Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after the first exposure to asbestos.
8. Mesothelioma has been diagnosed in asbestos workers, family members, and residents who live close to asbestos mines.
9. Health effects from asbestos exposure may continue to progress even after exposure is stopped.
10. Smoking or cigarette smoke, together with exposure to asbestos, greatly increases the likelihood of lung cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of asbestosis can include:
Shortness of breath which is the primary symptom
A persistent and productive cough
Chest pain Loss of appetite
A dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling.
If you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your physician immediately and discuss your level of exposure. Early detection of mesothelioma increases your chances immeasurably.