In today’s world, there are numerous carcinogenic materials and chemicals in use. Unfortunately, due to the fact that they serve a variety of purposes in our lives and also because banning these chemicals could damage the economy and thrust markets around the globe into an unstable state and cause recessions. A typical example of this is cigarettes. Another example that has long been used and has slowly been restricted is asbestos. Asbestos was a popular material in the past as it satisfied an array of purposes, they were heavily used in building and for insulation however asbestos is highly carcinogenic and over the last decade the use of asbestos has been effectively restricted by various governmental legislations.
Asbestos causes a variety of diseases such as mesothelioma (a type of cancer) and lung cancer. Besides these two deadly diseases it also causes other respiratory conditions such as pleural thickening and asbestosis. Let’s look at some of the causes of these four diseases:
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the lining of cells that protect the vital organs within the body. Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma and almost all cases of mesothelioma have been linked to some kind of asbestos exposure in the past, however, in very rare cases mesothelioma can also be caused by other factors. Radiation exposure can be a culprit in patients who have mesothelioma but have no exposure to asbestos. Another reason for mesothelioma could be exposure to materials similar to asbestos. In its simple form, asbestos Is comprised of long, ultra-thin fibers that may not be visible to the naked eye. Inhalation of these airborne fibers is what causes mesothelioma. Other rare minerals such as zeolite and erionite comprise of a similar structure that can cause mesothelioma as well. Finally, the rare simian virus is also known to cause mesothelioma.
As asbestos primarily enters the body via inhalation, it can cause irritation in the lungs and trigger lung cancer as well. However, in comparison to the above mentioned cancer, lung cancer is one of the most popular and deadly diseases. The primary cause for lung cancer is cigarette smoke. This may be from primary or secondhand smoke. With the large percentage of people smoking and the large amounts of cigarette smoke in the air, there are several thousands of cases of lung cancer every year. Air pollution is also known to cause lung cancer especially if you reside in an area which is densely populated by factories or vehicles. Another major cause of cancer is radon gas, this chemical occurs naturally in the soil and is responsible for approximately 10% of lung cancer cases. Apart from that genetics, other lung related infections and exposure to other rare chemicals can also cause lung cancer. It should be known that smoking with any of the other causes mentioned above can significantly increases the possibility of lung cancer.
Asbestosis is solely caused by asbestos (as the name suggests). In this disease, the lungs are scarred and the affected areas can no longer function normally and assist the lungs in breathing.
Pleural thickening can be caused by asbestos due to the irritating structure and properties of asbestos however pleural thickening may be caused by several other factors such as pneumonia, infections, tumors, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other lung related infections.
Asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer are virtually only caused by asbestos exposure, pleural thickening and lung cancer may be caused by a number of factors, in any case If you have been exposed to asbestos and start experiencing any respiratory symptoms, it would be a good idea to have a prognosis by a doctor and diagnosis if necessary to rule out the possibility of any of the above diseases.