Although asbestos isn’t used commonly in many of the industrial settings it once was, many still face the risk of suffering asbestos-related lung diseases, especially mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleura in the lungs and is caused by increased exposure to asbestos and materials that contain asbestos. The fibrous material was ubiquitous in many older building supplies, like floor and ceiling tiles and insulation. Though its use in those settings has largely diminished, thousands of people are exposed to the toxic material on a daily basis while others who worked a lifetime exposed to the material continue to suffer from the side effects of their jobs.
Those who worked in industrial settings where asbestos was used on a daily basis face the highest risk of suffering lung and other diseases caused by exposure. These people could have been employed at factories that made products like insulation for myriad applications or in drywall factories, where it was used to strengthen products and fireproof them. Many workers likely performed these tasks without regard for protecting their lungs and did so through the 1970s, when asbestos was eventually phased out of those industries, according to information provided by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, part of the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.
Today, workers charged with removing products and building supplies that contain asbestos face the same risks. Attention to worker safety has increased somewhat in the last 30 years but that doesn’t necessarily exclude anyone from facing a risk of asbestos exposure today. Even if a person weren’t directly exposed to asbestos, they could acquire related diseases simply by being near a person who has. Family members of many of these workers have, over the years, developed many of the same symptoms and too face risks caused by exposure.
People living nearest to places where asbestos was either made or used in manufacturing of some of the aforementioned products could face exposure risks if the toxic material is found in soil deposits. Asbestos, if airborne, can embed into the soil and pose similar risks to people living in the area. This risk is also present when older buildings are demolished. Unless precautions are taken ahead of time to remove these asbestos-containing products, when a building is razed, it could spread particles into the air that eventually could penetrate the soil.
Many people who’ve been negatively affected by asbestos develop lung cancers, especially mesothelioma. The risk of acquiring a disease like mesothelioma depends on a number of factors and can be slowed but there appears to be no reversing its effects. Symptoms could take between 10 and 40 years after exposure to develop. A person’s risk factor is more significant the longer they’ve been exposed to asbestos and only a few months minimally could raise a person’s risk greatly.
Early signs of potential trouble caused by asbestos exposure are shortness of breath, feeling tired, or a dry cough. As a disease progresses, the coughs can become persistent and worsen. Chest pains and frequent lung infections are also hallmark symptoms of possible lung cancer like mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos.