While now banned in the United States, asbestos was used in construction materials until the end of the 1980s. When asbestos fibers are disturbed from decaying materials, construction, or a host of other possibilities, they can become airborne where they pose a risk to those who live or work within the building. Once asbestos is inhaled, long exposure to the fibers can lead to a host of symptoms that – if left unchecked – can have dire long-term consequences.
Asbestosis: The Sentinel Disease of Asbestos Exposure
When asbestos fibers enter the lungs, they embed themselves in the tissue of the walls, cutting the tissue of the lungs. Every time the lungs are cut, scars form. As these scars continue to build, they interfere with the lungs, reducing their capacity in what is called asbestosis. These small, needle-like fibers will stay in the lungs – they are made of silicate and will not dissolve – and once embedded they will not leave the lungs.
Signs and Symptoms of Early Asbestos Exposure
As the first sign of asbestos exposure, asbestosis causes inflammation and stiffness in the lungs due to the fibers and their scarring. Common symptoms include:
- Runny nose and sneezing.
- Loss of breath/shortness of breath.
- Tightness in the chest.
- A persistent dry cough.
- Loss of appetite and accompanying weight loss.
Learn more about early asbestos exposure in our two blogs, How Long Does It Take for Asbestos Exposure to Be Harmful? and The Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure.
Prolonged Exposure and Further Health Concerns
Asbestosis is only the first health condition of asbestos exposure. The fiber can continue to work their way into the lungs, piercing the outer membrane of the lungs (the pleura) and into the chest lining (the mesothelium). Asbestos fibers are naturally carcinogenic and can cause the following types of cancer (along with other types).
- Lung Cancer: As the fibers stay in the lungs, they short-term trigger the immune system, but long term exposure can damage the cells, leading to lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma: When asbestos fibers pierce the outer layer of the lungs, they can pierce the outer lining of the lungs and chest, called the mesothelium, leading to a very aggressive form of cancer known as mesothelioma.
If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to consult both a doctor and to get your home inspected for asbestos. Long term exposure to asbestos is very dangerous, which is why it’s vital to locate asbestos and perform asbestos abatement. Fiber Control, Inc. can help. Learn more about our services and contact us today to get started.