People are exposed to asbestos where they work, in their homes or in their communities. Asbestos, a once widely used mineral, has been linked to the development of serious illnesses including a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.
Asbestos is comprised of a group of naturally occurring minerals that bundle together into fibers. The fibers are valuable because they can be split into thin durable threads that resist heat, fire and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. These attributes make them especially useful in many industries, including building and construction, shipbuilding, the automotive industry and in paints, coatings, adhesives and plastics.
Asbestos was heavily used in the twentieth century by various industries throughout the U.S. until it was discovered that the thin fibers, if inhaled into our lungs, could cause devastating disease. When the microscopic fibers are inhaled, most are expelled as we breathe out, but some can become lodged in the lungs, accumulate, and cause scarring and inflammation. Overtime, scarring and inflammation inhibit breathing and cause disease.
Lung Diseases Related to Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a known carcinogen (cause of cancer). Significant exposure to asbestos increases the risk of serious, potentially fatal conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and more.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, the heart and the abdominal cavity. It is diagnosed in about 2,000 people each year in the U.S.
Mesothelioma forms when asbestos fibers lodge in the membranes surrounding the organs. It may take 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos for symptoms of mesothelioma to appear. Because the initial symptoms are similar to those of other lung problems, mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed. Symptoms typically include persistent cough and shortness of breath.
Mesothelioma mostly affects people that worked with asbestos and were exposed to the hazardous fibers on a daily basis. This includes shipyard workers, mechanics, navy veterans, electricians, plumbers, miners and others. Family members of people that worked with asbestos are also at risk, as the fibers could make their way home on the workers’ clothes.
Asbestosis is a respiratory disease brought on by exposure to asbestos. The lungs of people with asbestosis become scarred by the asbestos fibers and the scarring prevents the lungs from expanding and contracting normally and exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Symptoms of asbestosis include:
- Tightness in the chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Abnormalities of the nails and clubbing of the fingers
There is no cure for asbestosis. Some patients will require a lung transplant. Treatment consists of easing symptoms of fluid secretions in the lungs.
Asbestos Lung Cancer
Lung cancer can spread to the liver, the adrenal glands, the bones, and the brain. Smoking significantly increases the risk that patients exposed to asbestos will develop lung cancer. It is important to check with the doctor if the following symptoms occur:
- Pain in the chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Coughing up bloody sputum
- Difficulty swallowing
- Fatigue or anemia
- Swelling of the neck or face
Asbestos Pleural Disorders
The pleura is a thin covering that protects and cushions the lungs. It is composed of two layers of tissue with a small amount of fluid in between. Exposure to asbestosis can lead to pleural thickening, pleural effusions (buildup of fluids) and pleural calcification.Asbestos Cancer Risk
- In addition to damaging the lungs, there is some evidence that asbestos exposure also is related to cancers of the:
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you should speak with a qualified asbestos lawyer about your legal rights. You might be eligible to seek compensation from the companies that are responsible for your exposure. For more information, please contact the enviromental lawyers at law office of Melinda J. Helbock.