Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in rock in the form of thin fibers. At one point, it was highly prized as a protective and insulating material because of its resistance to flames. Once it was discovered that exposure to asbestos fibers could cause respiratory illness, its commercial use declined.
However, the dangers associated with asbestos have yet to completely go away. For one thing, symptoms of the diseases often do not show up until many years following the exposure. For another, while products and building material less than 30 years old no longer contain dangerous levels of asbestos, the material may still lurk in older buildings. Here are some of the diseases that asbestos can cause.
Asbestos fibers that are inhaled go into the lungs and stay there. When these fibers build up in the lungs due to many years of exposure, they can cause scarring of the tissues. The scarred lung tissues can no longer function as well as before, so people with asbestosis typically develop shortness of breath. This progresses to become more severe over time and can eventually prove fatal. When this condition was first discovered, it was one of the first indications that asbestos could be dangerous.
2. Pleural Thickening
The pleura is a membrane that surrounds the lungs. With heavy asbestos exposure, the pleura starts to swell. This can result in chest discomfort and shortness of breath because the swollen pleura can actually squeeze the lungs, leaving them less room to expand.
3. Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
Lung cancer has many possible causes. One of the most well-known is smoking, but exposure to asbestos is another possible cause. Lung cancer is often not diagnosed until it has spread to other areas of the body. Therefore, it is difficult to treat and often proves fatal.
Mesothelioma is another type of cancer that can result from asbestos exposure. This type affects the pleura and the peritoneum, which is the lining that surrounds the lower digestive tract. Like asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until it is too late to treat. However, unlike lung cancer, which can have many different causes, mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is only dangerous when there are loose fibers floating around that you can breathe in. Contact environmental specialists such as Nielsen Environmental if you know of or suspect asbestos in your home. They will assess the situation and recommend a course of action.