Prolonged exposure to asbestos puts a person at a risk of serious medical conditions such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, etc. The following WellnessKeen write-up provides information on the health risks posed by exposure to this mineral.
Once considered as one of the most useful, naturally-occurring minerals on Earth, asbestos has been found guilty of triggering certain serious diseases. In modern times, or until 1972, this mineral was widely used for the construction of buildings, and also in insulating pipes and wiring. The extensive use of this mineral was due to its excellent resistance to fire and corrosion. At the same time, it is strong, durable, and versatile.
Dangers of Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos fibers have the ability to break down into sizes so small that they eventually become microscopic. When observed under a microscope, these pieces appear as little spears. The fibers begin to pose health risks when they become airborne, and are inhaled. Once these microscopic particles have made their way into the body, they trigger off health problems. These disorders remain asymptomatic, until they have caused major damage to the body. By the time, the disease is diagnosed, there are fewer options left for the treatment.
The possibility of one developing health problems increase, if one has been exposed to this mineral for a long time. The common diseases that are caused by exposure to these fibers include:
The symptoms of this lung disease include chest pain, coughing, finger deformity and reduced tolerance to physical activity. The person might also suffer from shortness of breath, which initially, might be experienced due to exertion, but later, even while resting. As mentioned earlier, these kinds of symptoms take about 20 – 30 years to reveal themselves and in some cases, even longer.
This is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium that lines the lungs, abdomen, or heart. This is a rare disease. Its symptoms include painful breathing and coughing, chest pain, abnormal weight loss, dry cough, shortness of breath, and formation of strange lump-like tissue under the skin on the chest.
Cancer can begin in the lining of the bronchi (either of the two main branches of the trachea), the trachea (membranous tube with cartilaginous rings that convey inhaled air from the larynx to the bronchi), bronchioles (any of the smallest bronchial ducts that end in alveoli), or alveoli (microscopic sacs wherein the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place). Symptoms include chest pain, swelling of neck and face, weight loss, repeated bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia, and hoarseness. Other symptoms include fatigue, cough, coughing up blood, and pain in the chest, shoulder, or back that worsens with deep breaths.
Diffuse Pleural Thickening
The inhaled fibers can make their way into the pleura (thin serous membrane around the lungs and inner walls of the chest), thereby causing scarring or fibrosis. This, in turn, causes the pleura to thicken over time. The symptoms of this condition include chest pain, shortness of breath, and decreased ability to exercise.
To conclude, the most dreaded part of such asbestos-related diseases is that they are not diagnosed early. Thus, it becomes extremely essential to take preventive measures to eliminate the possibility of exposure to this mineral.