People may be exposed to asbestos in a variety of ways, including through their work, their communities, or their homes. If products containing asbestos are disturbed, small asbestos fibers can be released into the air and inhaled. These fibers can become trapped in the lungs, leading to serious health problems over time.
Asbestos exposure has been linked to an condition of inflammation that affects the lungs, asbestosis. It includes nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, and an increased risk of lung cancer. Asbestosis symptoms include short breath, coughing, and even lung damage that is permanent. Other conditions caused by asbestos exposure include changes in the membranes around the lung called pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and anormal benign collections of fluid between the thin layers of tissue lining the lungs and the wall of the chest cavity called pleural effusions.
Who is at risk for an asbestos-related disease?
Asbestos fibers can pose a health hazard if someone is exposed to them on a regular basis. Those most at risk are usually those who work directly with the material, such as in the shipbuilding or construction trades, or who have significant environmental exposure.
Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos can lead to various diseases, including cancer. As a result of government regulations and improved work practices, workers today have a lower risk of exposure than in the past. However, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of asbestos and take precautions to avoid exposure.