Asbestos is a set of six natural silicate minerals. In the 19th century asbestos was widely used by manufacturers and builders because of its characteristics such as sound absorption, resistance to heat, average tensile strength etc. Today it is known that exposure to this mineral may cause many illnesses. For example, inhalation of asbestos fibers is associated with the occurrence of lung cancer and mesothelioma, two malignant tumors of the lungs and pleura. Furthermore, asbestosis is another medical condition caused by prolonged and excessive exposure to asbestos. This is why The European Union has forbidden any use of this mineral as well as its extraction, manufacturing and processing.
Dangers of Asbestos
Fibers of this mineral are considered the major culprits of all damaging and hazardous effects of asbestos. They can be so small, even microscopic and this allows them to be inhaled and reach even the smallest compartments in the lungs. Asbestos fibers simply cannot break down completely or turn into a harmless form. Being so small asbestos fibers are rather easily inhaled or ingested. Once they have entered the body, to be more precise the lungs and pleura, they trigger the specific reactions and contribute to the occurrence of many illnesses. Unfortunately, most of these illnesses are initially asymptomatic and the symptoms and signs of the disease basically occur once the fibers have caused serious damage to lung tissue.
It is not confirmed how much asbestos can actually cause damage to the lungs and pleura. But it is definitely true that the more a person is exposed to asbestos, the greater are the chances that he/ she will develop some of the asbestos related diseases.
Illnesses Associated with AsbestosAsbestosisAsbestosis is a chronic inflammatory lung condition that features with inflammatory reaction of the parenchimatous lung tissue and formation of fibrous tissue which replaces the healthy lung tissue. The symptoms of the disease usually occur due to substantial damage to the lungs and they include chest pain, chronic cough, reduced tolerance to physical activity etc. Shortness of breath is in the beginning associated with exertion while once the disease has progressed it may occur even during rest. MesotheliomaThis is a malignant tumor of the pleura and it is considered to occur more often if a person has been exposed to asbestos. The tumor causes thickening of the pleura which is no longer elastic enough and this results in restricted movements of the lung and consequent shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain etc.Asbestos Lung CancerLung cancer associated with asbestos exposure may originate from the trachea, bronchioles or alveoli. The presence of asbestos fibers is a major contributor for this type of lung cancer. Depending of the stage of the disease patients suffer from a variety of symptoms and fatigue, weight loss, chest, shoulder or back pain, cough are only some of them.Diffuse Pleural ThickeningAfter being inhaled asbestos fibers may reach the pleura and cause scarring and formation of fibrous tissue. This eventually causes thickening if the affected pleura and symptoms such as shortness of breath and intolerance to strenuous activities.