asbestos

Asbestos

WHAT IS ASBESTOS?

Asbestos is naturally occurring mineral.   It is found naturally in the environment as fiber bundles that can be separated into thin threads.  Since these fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity, asbestos was widely used by many industries.

The building and construction industries have used asbestos for strengthening cement and plastics, for insulation, roofing, fireproofing, and sound absorption. The shipbuilding industry have used it for insulation purposes. The automotive industry have used asbestos in brakes and clutch pads. Asbestos has also been used in ceiling and floor tiles; paints, adhesives; and plastics. In addition, asbestos has been found in vermiculite-containing garden products and some talc-containing crayons

In 1989 the Environmental Protection Agency banned all new uses of asbestos.  People my be exposed to asbestos if the asbestos product is disturbed, it releases the fibers into the air whereby it is inhaled and lodges in the lungs.  This fiber can lodge in the lung tissue and cause mesothelioma.

WHAT FACTORS AFFECT THE RISK OF DEVELOPING ABESTOS RELATED CANCER?

 Several factors are included in the risk assessment:

  • How much asbestos the individual was exposed to
  • How long the individual was exposed to the asbestos
  • Size and shape of the asbestos fibers
  • Source of exposure
  • Risk factors such as smoking.

HOW ARE ASBESTOS RELATED DISEASE DETECTED?

Individuals who may have been exposed (or suspect they have been exposed) to asbestos fibers should contact their doctor especially if  they experience any symptoms. You may not experience symptoms of asbestos-related diseases for many decades after the exposure.  Be sure and check with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness.
  • A persistent cough that gets worse over time.
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs.
  • Pain or tightening in the chest.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Swelling of the neck or face.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue or anemia.

A lung biopsy, which identifies asbestos fibers in the pieces of lung tissue removed by surgery is the most reliable test to confirm the presence of asbestos-related abnormalities.