Exposure to asbestos can have devastating effects on your health. Typically, the greater the exposure, the greater chance of developing adverse health conditions. Let’s take a look at what asbestos is and home it can be a danger to your health.
What is Asbestos?
- Asbestos is a natural mineral found in rock and soil that is made up of tiny fibers. These tiny fibers are extremely durable and resistant to heat and other chemicals.
- You cannot see, smell, or taste it. The fibers are too small to identify without the use of a microscope and thus require testing in a lab to determine exposure.
- It has been used in products for over 100 years due to its durability and heat resistance. In the 1970’s it was discovered that asbestos fibers could break off, with damage or movement, allowing particles to float through the air and become ingested into the lungs. Exposure over time could lead to serious and even fatal lung diseases.
- Asbestos is now categorized as a carcinogen. It has been removed from most construction materials and household products. If there are trace amounts in a product, it must be labeled.
- Most asbestos exposure comes after asbestos-containing material is damaged or moved. This occurs most often with projects involving demolition, remodeling, repair, and maintenance.
What are the Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure?
- Symptoms of disease may take years to develop after exposure to asbestos. Conditions can also be difficult to identify. Doctors typically connect asbestos exposure to related health conditions like lung disease based on a thorough medical history. This history will include medical, work, cultural, and environmental associations.
- While exposure to asbestos fibers is dangerous, the risks for developing a disease depend on several accompanying factors. Those include how much asbestos was in the air, how long the exposure occurred, how much time has passed since exposure began, the presence of pre-existing lung or breathing conditions, and tobacco use.
- The most common non-cancer diseases caused by asbestos ingestion include asbestosis and pleural disease. Asbestosis is often associated with those who have had very high exposures over a long time. Symptoms may take years to manifest. It is a serious, progressive disease that causes scarring in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Pleural Disease causes changes of the membrane surrounding the lungs and chest. It can also cause difficulty breathing.
- Asbestos exposure can greatly increase the risks of certain cancers including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that thins the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart linings. Typically signs of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 40 years after exposure.
- Current studies are also linking asbestos exposure to certain types of cancer of the larynx, ovary, stomach, and colorectum.
Asbestos exposure can pose serious health risks. Asbestos fibers are not released unless they are damaged or disturbed so it is important to be aware of where asbestos may be lurking. Being informed, proactive, and cautious will be the best way to protect your health.
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