Health Risks from Asbestos Exposure

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Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos has long been known to be a dangerous substance, though it was frequently used in both the construction and ship-building trades, because of its excellent insulation and fire-retardant properties. In recent years, however, it was found that inhaling loose fibers from the material could significantly harm the body, causing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. For many people, however, bans on the use of this substance came too late.

What are the health risks?

The tiny fibers from asbestos can be breathed in and travel into the lungs. From there, they embed themselves in the lining of the lungs, where they can cause a range of problems. Some people may never experience a problem, and others will have rapid and uncontrolled tumor growth. Most asbestos-related diseases have an extraordinarily long dormancy period. Little is known about why some people develop a problem and why others don’t, and it is difficult to study, as by the time cancer develops, the asbestos exposure may be long forgotten and can never be identified.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

The fibers that asbestos produces are so small and so thin that they cannot be seen. They are invisible, and therefore, almost impossible to combat. A single human hair can be up to 1200 times thicker than an asbestos fiber. Their size is what makes them so dangerous. Unlike other particles which are filtered out of the lung, they are small enough to travel into the lung itself. Prolonged or repeated exposure is especially dangerous, as more fibers have the chance to enter to body and build up in the lungs.

Who is most likely to encounter asbestos?

Asbestos is still being used in some industries and after a long history of us in construction all over the world, anyone involved in construction or demolition is at risk of coming into contact with these fibers. Any time there has been significant damage to a building, especially one build before 1980, there is the danger that asbestos fibers have been released into the environment. In order to avoid these risks, people should know how to protect themselves from exposure.

How long after exposure does lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis occur?

Most diseases can take more than twenty years to develop and even longer before symptoms start to appear. By the time that a person starts to see symptoms, it is usually too late to take any preventative measures. Some people never develop an asbestos-related issue, while some may see a disease developing as little as five years after exposure. Because little is known about these diseases and about asbestos itself, there are no concrete numbers.

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