Asbestos has many appealing qualities for builders. It is strong, flexible and corrosion resistant. It is also burn resistant and a good insulator. There are not many substances with these qualities and may explain why it was so widely used. It becomes hazardous when asbestos containing materials are disturbed or damaged. Asbestos is made up of microscopic bundles of fibers. When the materials become disturbed or damaged, these fibers separate and may become airborne. These fibers may get into the lungs and that may lead to serious and even fatal diseases. Some of these diseases include:
Asbestosis is a non-cancerous lung disease. Inhaling asbestos fibers for an extended period of time causes it. This disease takes twenty five to forty years to develop. As asbestos fibers become trapped in your lungs, the body will produce an acid to try to eliminate these fibers. The continued production of the acid can eventually scar the tissues in your lungs. An excessive amount of scarring may cause the lungs to function improperly. This can lead to serious breathing difficulties. If asbestosis is left untreated, it may cause cardiac failure. At this time, there is no effective treatment for this disease. People who renovate or demolish buildings that contain asbestos have the greatest risk of getting asbestosis. The chances of getting this disease through physical contact with a person who works with asbestos are minimal. People who worked in naval shipyards were the first ones diagnosed with asbestosis.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the pleura (the outer membrane that encloses the lung and chest cavity) and/ or the peritoneum (the membrane lining the walls of the abdominal cavity). In the United States, there are only about 3000 new cases of this disease annually. Exposure to asbestos has been the cause in all of the cases. The exposure in these cases lasted anywhere from fifteen to thirty years. Unlike other forms of cancer, there is only one known cause of mesothelioma. Studies indicate that people who work in areas that contain asbestos, such as mines, mills, factories, or shipyards, or who manufacture and install asbestos installation are at the greatest risk of getting mesothelioma. You are also at risk if you live with a worker exposed to asbestos or near any area containing asbestos. Studies also indicate that younger people are more likely to contract mesothelioma when they inhale asbestos. This is the reason why people are going to great lengths to protect school children from asbestos exposure.
Many cases of lung cancer can also be attributed to asbestos exposure. Lung cancer is actually the leading cause of death among all of the illnesses caused by asbestos exposure. You can aggravate the effects of lung cancer by about fifty percent if you start smoking. People who work in occupations where they are directly involved in the handling of asbestos are at a greater risk of getting lung cancer. Exposure to both asbestos and another carcinogen, such as cigarette smoke, puts you at greater risk of contracting lung cancer than exposure to asbestos alone. There was a study that indicated that exposure to asbestos and smoke makes you ninety times more likely to contract lung cancer than a person who is not exposed to either. Some of the symptoms of lung cancer include coughing, breathing irregularities, chest pains and anemia. It usually takes fifteen to thirty years of exposure to asbestos to contract lung cancer.