Asbestos is no longer a common building material because of its well-documented history of adverse health effects. Exposure, especially long-term, can have severe effects on the individual. From reduced respiratory function to certain cancers, asbestos should be avoided at all costs. While in a solid state, asbestos presents little risk, but when the material becomes airborne, it is dangerous.
Prolonged exposure to airborne asbestos can lead to pulmonary fibrosis or the formation of scar-like tissue on the lungs. The chronic appearance of these scars related to asbestos inhalation is called asbestosis. The chronic disease makes it difficult to breathe and typically occurs after years of exposure. Most cases of asbestosis do not advance after the initial diagnosis.
Many people have heard of a connection between asbestos and lung cancer. While inhalation of asbestos can lead to lung cancer, it is not an immediate response. Most studies suggest long-term exposure is necessary for a lung cancer outcome, which may not occur for 20 to 30 years. Many factors contribute to the likelihood of developing lung cancer.
- duration of exposure
- Age of individual
- Time since exposure
- Type and size of fibers
- Tobacco usage
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer. It is often fatal. While rare in the general population, it is relatively common among asbestos workers. Unfortunately, it is also seen among household members of workers. The thought is that workers transport fibers home on their clothing, transmitting the substance into the air of their house.
The chest cavity or pleura can also experience abnormalities after asbestos inhalation. While non-cancerous, the issues are still severe. Inhalation of fibers can lead to excessive fluid build-up, thickening of the chest wall, folded lung and localized collagen deposits.
Some studies suggest an increase in laryngitis cases following asbestos exposure. The thinking is the fibers lead to infections and irritations.
It should come as no surprise with the above information that asbestos exposure often causes weakened immune system responses. A depressed immune system may also be the result of asbestosis or another rare condition known as retroperitoneal fibrosis.
Asbestos exposure presents many health risks. While most medical issues require extended exposure to airborne fibers, it is something to be concerned about in older properties. Consider contacting an asbestos abatement contractor, like from Nielsen Environmental, to have your home or property assessed for asbestos. There is no need to put yourself or your family at risk.