Asbestos was a commonly used industrial material over the course of the twentieth century. However, this material is proven to be one of the most lethal naturally occurring materials, since it leads to many health-related problems such as asthma, mesothelioma and cancers. Asbestos exposure may damage the membranes around the lungs, the heart and the abdominal cavity, but what is most disturbing is that a diagnosis usually takes place decades after the initial exposure to this hazardous material. It is estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year, due to the asbestos exposure.
Sources of asbestos exposure
Asbestos was often used as a building material and for vehicle brakes, since it is highly resistant to heat and corrosion. Employers in general industry may be exposed to this material if they manufacture products containing asbestos, or if they perform brake or clutch repair. In construction industry, workers may be exposed to the asbestos, whenever they conduct a demolition or Renovation of the buildings containing asbestos materials. People working on the ships may also come in contact with asbestos, since it has been used for shipbuilding. All of these groups should always use respiratory protection in their working environment, since the asbestos spreads around the air as tiny invisible fibers.
Causes of asbestos poisoning
The airborne fibers of asbestos are very light, and they can be carried away to great distances. Even the slightest disturbance of the materials containing this mineral can dramatically increase their presence in the air, and people will normally inhale them without even knowing it. Once inhaled, the fibers become logged within alveoli, which are the small sacs inside the lungs where the oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. The fibers irritate the delicate lung tissue causing the scarring of the lungs. At the severe stages, the lung tissue will become so scarred that it cannot contract and expand normally, which disturbs the breathing process. People who smoke cigarettes and live in industrial areas are at the greatest risk of complications.
Symptoms of asbestos exposure
As already mentioned, symptoms of asbestos exposure usually don’t show up for a couple of decades. Most commonly, people experience the first symptoms some twenty or thirty years after the exposure. Typically, the disease starts with a shortness of breath, which becomes more and more severe, as the time goes by. Patients may experience persistent cough and chest pain, while in the later stages of the disease their fingertips become rounder. This phenomenon is known as the clubbing of fingers.