Seven Facts You Should Know About Asbestos And How It Affects Your Health

January 23, 2019

The dangers of asbestos have become increasingly clear over the past couple of decades, including the negative impact that it can have on your overall health. The primary health effects of exposure to asbestos are lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. In the 1970s, asbestos was widely used in many products, but it was most commonly used in building material because of its durability and resistance to heat. 

Made of naturally occurring silicate minerals, asbestos was used in roofing, insulation, textiles, flooring, plastics, and various materials found in homes and vehicles. While there is a possibility of a building containing asbestos without any negative health affects, that likelihood diminishes when asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled by workers or inhabitants of the building. It can be a dangerous situation that must be handled appropriately 

Here are seven interesting facts about asbestos and the way in which it impacts your health:

1. Who Asbestos Affects: Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of asbestos and the fact that it is airborne, have resulted in significant health risks for people who worked with and inhaled asbestos particles. Individuals with long-term exposure to airborne asbestos are more likely to have their health compromised because asbestos fibers remain in your lungs and produce disease over time. Although the use of asbestos started to decline in the 1980s, it remained on the market for decades after it was widely reported as a health risk. Given the way in which asbestos was used extensively within different trades, people with the greatest risk worked in railway, mining, shipbuilding, and industrial construction. These workers have historically had the highest incidence of asbestos exposure. It has also been proven that people who smoke cigarettes and are exposed to asbestos are at a greater risk for lung cancer, which is one of many good reasons to stop smoking. 

2. Cause of Breathing Difficulties: Perhaps the most frightening aspect of asbestos is the fact that it can cause serious diseases, such as cancer, that can lead to death. However, there are also benign health problems that can significantly impact the quality of a person’s life once they’ve been exposed to asbestos, such as diffuse pleural thickening (DPT), which is also known as pleural thickening. This condition makes it difficult for a person to breath and results in a significant amount of chest pain. DPT is a challenging health condition that people exposed to asbestos often have to deal with for a lifetime. 

3. Second-Hand Exposure:Surprisingly, there have been instances when family members of workers in industries where asbestos was commonly used have experienced health challenges due to exposure from particles contained on the clothing of workers. This means that people who were not directly exposed to asbestos in a building, experienced the same health issues as those who were exposed because the particles on the clothing was enough to inhale and enter the body. It has also been proven that children are at a great risk of being negatively impacted from this type of asbestos exposure. Since asbestos particles remain within your lungs, health issues are persistent even when the exposure occurred many years ago. 

4. Effects of Undisturbed Asbestos: One of the tricky aspects of asbestos is that it can be found in a building, yet have no impact on the buildings inhabitants until it is disturbed and particles are released into the air. This poses a unique challenge for individuals in building trades who use power tools because they often perform tasks that can cause the release of asbestos particles. Although use of asbestos is no longer legal, there are many buildings that were built before the use of asbestos became illegal and have existed for decades. Subsequently, asbestos may exist in tiles, roofs, and other parts of a building without incident. 

5. Activities That Release Asbestos Particles: The removal of asbestos materials should only be done by a licensed professional, because of the danger involved. When removed properly, asbestos particles are not released into the atmosphere, which protects the workers and the inhabitants of the building. When handled incorrectly, fibers can pass through a person’s nose, throat and lungs, which starts a long process that can result in health issues years down the road. Unwitting homeowners engaged in do-it-yourself projects can create a dangerous situation if they cut, drill, grind, saw, or break material that contains asbestos. There are also other building issues that can lead to problems, such as aging and water damage. Brisbane asbestos testing resources are a great way to alleviate the anxiety of dealing with a potential asbestos problem. It also mitigates the risk of exposure to asbestos and the possibility of long-term health consequences. 

6. Symptoms of Asbestosis:If someone has been exposed to asbestos, it can take decades for symptoms to develop, and even longer for the condition to be diagnosed. The diagnosis often occurs when x-rays reveal scar tissue in the lungs. Before that occurs, people often experience tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing and a change in skin color caused by not getting enough oxygen into the lungs. Unfortunately, there is no way to treat asbestosis effectively, which means the disease is fatal. 

7. Importance of Early Treatment: If exposure to asbestos has occurred, it is important to receive treatment right away in order to prevent the development and spread of cancer through the lungs. If left undiagnosed and untreated, cancer in the lungs caused by asbestos exposure can spread to other parts of the body, with deadly consequences. However, this may not occur until 10 or more years after exposure. Early treatment can literally be the difference between life and death.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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