How Can Asbestos Negatively Affect My Health?

Effects of Asbestos

Asbestos, often called the silent killer, is a group of six natural mineral fibers that possess great fire- and chemical-resistant properties. Up until its human health dangers became known in the 1970s, it was routinely used in the construction of commercial and residential buildings, in vehicle components, and even in textiles, such as children’s pajamas and other sleepwear.

The problem with asbestos is that it eventually breaks down. When it does, it releases microscopic fibers into the air that then widely disperse into the surrounding area. You, in turn, breathe in these fibers without ever even knowing you’re doing it. You can also inadvertently ingest them when they attach to your food or your eating utensils, plates and beverage holders, such as cups, glasses and bottles. The results of either inhalation or ingestion can be catastrophic.

Asbestos-Related Diseases and Conditions

The most common asbestos-related diseases and conditions include the following:

  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestosis
  • Gastrointestinal tract cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Pleural effusion, i.e., fluid in and around your lungs
  • Lung lining scarring

According to the National Cancer Institute, somewhere around 3,000 Americans receive a mesothelioma diagnosis each year. While lung cancer itself causes the most deaths, mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of your chest and stomach, ranks second.

Those Most at Risk

You face a high risk of asbestos exposure if you work in one of the following industries:

  • Asbestos mining or milling
  • Shipbuilding
  • Firefighting
  • Construction
  • Auto brake repair
  • Building demolition or rehab
  • Chemical, flooring, plastics or rubber manufacturing

Keep in mind that since asbestos fibers can cling to your clothing and shoes, your family members are also at high risk for developing an asbestos-related condition or disease when you unknowingly bring these fibers home with you.

Early Symptoms

The first symptoms indicating that you have an asbestos-related disease or condition likely will be one of more of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough, often producing blood-laced sputum
  • Persistent chest or abdominal pain
  • Persistent hoarseness
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of your face or neck
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

Unfortunately, however, these symptoms are also common in a variety of other diseases. Consequently, you may not receive a definitive mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diagnosis for 10 or even as many as 40 years after your initial asbestos exposure. Receiving regular chest x-rays, pulmonary function tests and lab tests that measure the amount of asbestos in your body can hasten a diagnosis. If you believe that you have asbestos in your home or workplace, then contacting an experienced asbestos abatement contractor may bring about an end to the asbestos in your building and get you back to feeling good again.