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What is Asbestosis? Types,Symptoms,Diagnosis and Lawsuits.

ASBESTOSIS: overview-types-symptoms-diagnosis

Asbestosis by definition is the inflammation of the linings of lung tissues (pleura) caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. It is a chronic lung disease that results from the inhalation of fibers of asbestos that can be released into the air if they’re disturbed by rubbing, shaking or scratching. Asbestosis is particularly referred to as fibrosis or thickening of the linings of the lungs. It begins in the surroundings of terminal bronchioles and penetrates into the walls of the alveoli. The formation of scars or thickenings is due to the body inflammatory response of immunity system.

Asbestos (meaning unquenchable) is a group of six natural silica compounds that present as thin crystalline fibers in different sizes and shapes consisting of more than a million tiny fibrils. They are characterized by the colors they have as:

  •    White (chrysotile)
  •    Blue (crocidolite)
  •    Green asbestos.
  •    Brown (amosite)

All of these have been realized to be carcinogenic to humans. Vermiculite asbestos is another mineral that can be used as a substitute for asbestos although it contained asbestos until the 1990s. Later on, pure vermiculite was mined which contained no asbestos and was not toxic or carcinogenic to humans. It is then used commercially for the production of many useful products such as soundproof sheets, roof insulators, fireproof pipes and linings of brake or clutch for its thermal resistance properties.

When was asbestos first used?

The use of asbestos precedes 4500 years ago, by the people of eastern Finland to strengthen their cooking pots and other tools. Ancient Persians surprised their guests by cleaning their clothes throwing them into the fire, and they believed that asbestos was the fur covering the body of the salamander as the animal could tolerate fire according to those people.

Industrial use of asbestos began in the 19th century. Italy first produced clothes and paper from asbestos in the 1850s. Canada and England established their factories to produce asbestos products in 1862. Australia manufactured asbestos building cement materials for the first time in 1920. Dr. Montague Murray was the first person who noted the hazardous effects of asbestos in 1899. He found traces of asbestos in the lungs of a 14 years’ worker of the asbestos textile factory who died from pulmonary fibrosis. Asbestosis was first diagnosed in the UK in 1924.

What are the types of asbestos-related lung diseases?

What conditions can exposure to the asbestos cause?

Accidental exposure to asbestos may make people experience severe breath shortness, pain and irritation in the chest cavity that increases the risk of lung cancer and less likely mesothelioma in them.

What Condition can exposure to the asbestos Causes?

There are three types of asbestos-related diseases:

  •    Asbestosis (scarring)
  •    Pleural diseases
  •    Lung cancer called Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure risks are very high in people who work on

  •    asbestos mining
  •    removal
  •    manufacturing of its products
  •    installing home instruments containing asbestos
  •    cleaning and repair
  •    boiler making
  •    building construction
  •    pipefitting

Just like asbestosis, thoracosis and silicosis are another lung diseases that are caused by bacteria and silica dust during mining or processing the products in factories respectively, and they have the same symptoms as those of asbestosis. Asbestosis, thoracosis, and silicosis are then considered occupational diseases because they are related to a job in which people are exposed to toxic materials they are handling.

Not only workers dealing with asbestos in factories are in danger. There are some products that contain asbestos and could be found in the homes such as insulations of the walls and roofs, pads of asbestos placed around a stove, hot water pipes installed in old houses and asbestos used in clutch and brake linings that are dangerous if damaged.

How long after exposure asbestos causes cancer?

How long do you have to be exposed to asbestos?

People show no symptom in the early stages of exposure to asbestos and they are unaware of the disease. The symptoms appear after more than almost 10-40 years following the first exposure.

Symptoms of Asbestosis

Symptoms of Asbestosis

  •    Shortness of breath
  •    Incomplete breathing
  •    Pain and discomfort in the chest
  •    Irritation in the lungs
  •    Continuous coughing
  •    Weakness
  •    Weight loss

Progression of the disease to a severe stage leads to the stiffness of respiratory system and reduced lung capacity resulting in decreased volume of oxygen diffusion from alveolar arterioles into the blood.

What is the difference between asbestosis and mesothelioma?

Asbestosis is the inflammatory disease in the linings of the lungs whereas mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer manifested following the severe conditions of asbestosis in the linings of lungs and other tissues. When the microscopic particles of asbestos enter the body, they can penetrate into the mesothelial tissues that make the linings of the visceral such as peritoneum of the digestive tract in the abdomen, pericardium of heart and covering of internal reproductive system and make the progression of mesothelioma fast. More than 80% of reported cases of this cancer are caused by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos exposure lawsuits:

The lawyers working with Motley Rice company have been taking serious legal actions about the unsafe products of asbestos as it was recognized as a hazardous material before 1980 especially after honorable efforts of Ron Motley the company’s co-founder. Ron Motley revealed that some companies hid their documents of their knowledge on harmful effects of asbestos in 1970’s. The United States of America had forbidden the use of asbestos in many but not all products in 1989. However, other countries are still mining and manufacturing its products such as construction materials because of good resistance possessed by this natural mineral against heat.

How much asbestos exposures cause cancer?

Is only one-time exposure to asbestos dangerous?

How much asbestos is too much?

According to data, workers in a factory dealing with asbestos-exposed to a dose of 44 fibers/cm3 of air for a year showed 2.8% rate of lung cancer. It was believed that hazardous effects of asbestos from a low exposure (less than one fiber/cm3 of air) might depend on the type of fiber inhaled, the genetic makeup of the person and whether he/she smokes.

Asbestos exposure limits:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has introduced an exposure limit for asbestos — Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) that is 0.1 fibers per cm3 of air described as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) or average of exposure in eight hours with excursion limit (EL) of 1.0 fiber per cm3 over a 30-minute period. The exposure that exceeds this limit can lead to asbestosis and increased risk of the life-threatening disease, cancer. But researchers have found that the exposure even below than that determined by OSHA could be fatal.

Diagnosis of asbestosis:

This disease cannot be diagnosed easily because the onset of the disease is too slow. Moreover, its symptoms are often confused with some other lung diseases such as pneumonia and asthma. To diagnose, a complete exposure testing including chest X-ray (CXR), imaging and histological examinations is required.

Treatments of asbestosis:

There is no cure reported for this disease, but if it is diagnosed at very first stages, it can be slowed down by medication and surgery that may be effective to relieve the painful breath and discomfort in the chest of the patient. The drugs involve inhalers, syrups, cough drops, painkillers and oxygen therapy in which the patient breathes pure oxygen through a plastic tube put in his nostrils from an oxygen reservoir because his lungs lack their flexibility and oxygen holding capacity and capability of transferring oxygen to the arteriolar blood and other tissues. If the drugs are not too good to work or oxygen therapy is not enough, the doctors recommend surgery for removing the damaged or stiffened lung tissue.

In the case of lung cancer or mesothelioma surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy will be applied to relieve the pain and increase the life expectancy of the patient.

How many years most employees keep records of measurements monitoring employee exposure to asbestos?

Lung cancer survival rate:

Mesothelioma patients have shown an average life expectancy of 12-21 months and survival rate of 40% after it is diagnosed in the first year. The second-year survival was reported to be 20%, and a rate of only 8% was reported for the survival of three years after the diagnosis. These rates depend on different factors such as age, sex, stage of cancer, its type and race. A five years’ survival rate of 43% for patients below the age 45 and 5% for older people suffering from asbestos-related diseases was the data provided by national cancer institute the USA.

How can we avoid exposure to asbestos?

If you are working in an asbestos factory or mill or you are handling any asbestos product such as installing asbestos containing insulations or piping and you are exposed to asbestos fibers in any case you should use proper coverings for your protection, for example, protective face masks, gloves and clothes to avoid any exposure to asbestos fibers. You can also get enough information about safety parameters in your workplace from OSHA, the organization responsible for regulatory acts on safety and health in workplaces. In case you are living in an old house with equipment containing asbestos and you are concerned about your health you can call the experts to check your house for the level of asbestos fibers in the air if any and if you need to repair your home instruments or asbestos containing insulations or pipes do not do it yourself and try to call a qualified expert to do so.

What to do when we are exposed to asbestos?

What to do when we are exposes to asbestos

  •    If you are a worker handling asbestos in any way and you have been exposed to asbestos, assess your exposure level. The higher the level of exposure to asbestos the greater will be the risk of developing lung cancer.
  •    Go to your doctor and ask for being tested and going through regular checkups to ensure your health and if there are any problems with you like the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases consult your doctor to have regular CT scans or chest X-rays.
  •    If you are a smoker, then try to, leave smoking because asbestos is more dangerous to individuals who smoke cigarettes, and this is due to the hazardous effects of cigarette itself as it contains many toxins that cause lung cancer and when they are paired with asbestos fibrils they can accelerate the appearance of symptoms of lung cancer.
  •    If you have been diagnosed as a patient of asbestos-related diseases, look for, a specialist in such diseases to get better and precise treatment.
  •    If you need any financial support, you can get it from organizations designed to offer such help including payments, under different compensation programs for workers. These may include the Federal Employees’ Compensation program, State worker’s compensation programs or the Harbor and Longshore Workers’ Compensation Program.

LiveHealthyAlways Conclusion:

To avoid asbestos exposure, we need to become more conscious and careful about what we use and where we live or work. To avoid the dangerous side effects of asbestos and other substances, it is necessary for us to replace such materials with the good ones as much as possible.


“The information collected here is just to enhance the level of knowledge of the readers of the article, and in the case of having any problem regarding the named diseases you should consult the doctors.”