Asbestos is a versatile, strong mineral that occurs naturally in the surface of the earth. It has long been used for various purposes such as in building materials (like cement), insulation and also for extinguishing fires. It was popularized in the 19th century and was widely used for industrial purposes until its use slowly started to diminish following health concerns. Over time, the dangers of asbestos have become even more apparent, resulting in the ban of asbestos in most developed countries. However, the ban of asbestos was only made recently (less than a decade ago) in most nations and the aforementioned health concerns usually materialize in a person exposed to asbestos after several decades.
Asbestos is a very thin fiber and thus may be released into the air when working with the material, inhalation of the material is what leads to health issues. The health hazards posed by asbestos are very serious ranging from cancer to very severe respiratory conditions. Asbestos primarily causes 4 dangerous illnesses:
This is an uncommon form of cancer that occurs to approximately 3000 people in the US every year. The primary cause for Mesothelioma is asbestos. Most people diagnosed with the disease have worked with asbestos around two to three decades ago. In a few rare cases, people who are closely acquainted with people working with asbestos such as the spouses of the workers may be diagnosed with Mesothelioma as well.
Unlike mesothelioma which can very rarely be caused by factors other than asbestos, asbestosis is only caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis causes lung tissue to scar and become futile in gaseous exchange, this occurs due to inhalation of asbestos fibers. Like Mesothelioma, symptoms for asbestosis will start to occur decades after being exposed to this deadly material.
Asbestos can also be responsible for lung cancer as well. Lung cancer is caused when the fibers are inhaled and irritate lung tissue that can cause inflammation, this can in turn result in malignant growth of lung tissue causing lung cancer.
Pleural thickening causes the mesothelium (membrane surrounding internal organs) in the lung to swell and become inflamed. Pleural thickening may also be a symptom and a warning sign of the possibility of one of the above diseases.
Asbestosis and pleural thickening can both be conditions that precede lung cancer or mesothelioma, thus while these two diseases aren’t cancers they should be treated with a proper diagnosis to rule out the possibility of any tumors. With the ban of asbestos in several countries, the cases of mesothelioma and the other above diseases is likely to reduce after a few decades. In recent times, due to the lack of information conveyed about the dangers of asbestos by manufacturers, several people who have retired from working in these factories are now suing the owners of these firms. Despite the health effects, certain third world countries still use asbestos for roofs and other components that are primarily for building in moderation.