The dangers associated with inhaling asbestos are simple: Asbestos exposure can cause several life-threatening conditions. These include lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Although asbestos-related diseases are relatively rare, strict regulations enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now help protect people from exposure.
Occupational asbestos exposure has historically been the most common source for exposure. Workers who have faced increased risks for inhaling asbestos include those in the construction, shipyard, automotive, mining and manufacturing industries. Homeowners can also face exposure risks from old asbestos-containing materials during renovations and other do-it-yourself projects.
Exposure to asbestos becomes a concern as soon as asbestos is disturbed. The microscopic fibers that make up asbestos are extremely lightweight and easily become airborne. Whether it’s naturally occurring asbestos in the ground or asbestos that is mixed into products, the slightest disturbance can result in dangerous asbestos levels.
Because of the jagged-like structure of asbestos, inhaled fibers eventually become trapped in the lining of the lungs. The body experiences great difficulties in expelling these fibers and they often remain there for many years. As time goes by, trapped asbestos fibers cause irritation and inflammation.
As the inflammation worsens, tumors may form along the lining of the lungs. This can take a minimum of 10 years and some people develop tumors as much as 50 years after exposure occurs. Until these tumors arise, symptoms of asbestos-related diseases are practically non-existent. It is not until a disease has progressed that symptoms finally present themselves and by this time treatment is very limited.
The average life expectancy of someone diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease is less than two years. Treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, but these therapies aim to relieve symptoms because a cure does not exist. However treatment can send an asbestos-related disease into remission if it’s detected early.
Asbestos exposure is much less likely to occur today. Before the 1970s, there were no regulations in place to say companies couldn’t use asbestos in products. Today, regulations severely limit its use in products. If asbestos-containing materials are found on a construction site, professional abatement companies must be called to properly handle and remove all asbestos.
As reported by the Environmental Working Group, more than 10,000 people in the United States pass away from an asbestos-related disease each year.
A big thanks to asbestos.com and their amazing writers for contributing this article to pacific-environmental.com!
Bio: Jensen Whitmer writes about asbestos awareness and the long-lasting effects of asbestos for the Mesothelioma Center.