For many years throughout the 20th century, asbestos was widely used in the construction of buildings around the world. It was highly prized for its insulating properties, serving well as both an electrical insulator and to help prevent heat from escaping homes too.
However, in the 1970s, the many health hazards associated with asbestos exposure were revealed, and since then we’ve seen some big changes in the rules and regulations regarding this material and how it can be used.
In minor doses, asbestos exposure isn’t necessarily all that dangerous, but when people are exposed to asbestos for a long time, they can start to suffer serious health issues. Those who have worked with asbestos or spent years living in homes with exposed asbestos are most at risk.
How Can Asbestos Affect Your Health?
We now know that asbestos is a very dangerous substance that should be avoided whenever possible. Works are underway around the world to remove asbestos from older buildings in which it was used, and newer developments typically make use of no asbestos whatsoever, but how does this material actually harm your health?
Well, on a microscopic level, asbestos can be quite delicate, shedding tiny fibers into the air. These fibers can then be sucked into the human body as people breathe, getting stuck in the lungs and surrounding tissue. This can lead to a range of different health issues, including potentially fatal conditions like mesothelioma and asbestosis.
The actual likelihood of a person suffering from asbestos-related diseases and health disorders depends on a variety of factors, including the quantity of asbestos in the air and how much time the person spent exposed to the asbestos. Someone who spends a day in a building with asbestos, for example, will be at much lower risk than someone who works there all the time.
Here are brief descriptions of just some of the diseases and disorders that have been linked with asbestos exposure.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that occurs when excessive amounts of asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs. Those fibers can cause scarring and tissue damage around the lungs, reducing their effectiveness and essentially making them less reliable.
People with asbestosis can therefore find themselves suffering from shortness of breath, dry coughs, and general pain and tightness around the chest area. A big part of the worry with asbestosis is that people might be suffering the symptoms and not even make the connection between their issues and asbestos, simply assuming that they have a cough or other condition.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that can be caused by asbestos fibers building up in the membrane layer around the lungs. As with asbestosis, the symptoms of this condition can take a long time to appear and may be confused with other conditions at first, so a lot of people suffer silently with mesothelioma and don’t realize what they’re dealing with until later on.
There are over 3,000 newly diagnosed cases of mesothelioma each year in the US, and many of the affected individuals are people who worked in asbestos environments in the past or lived in homes where asbestos was used during construction. The symptoms of this condition include coughing, shortness of breath, general respiratory difficulties, night sweats, and tiredness.
One of the worst possible outcomes for someone who has been exposed to asbestos is to develop lung cancer. This is a very high-risk disease in which a malignant tumor develops around the lungs, potentially blocking the flow of air and making it very difficult to breathe.
Symptoms of lung cancer can include a persistent cough, a loss of appetite, coughing up blood, chest pain, a sore throat, weight loss, shortness of breath, and so on. There are ways to treat lung cancer and many people are able to survive, but treatment is much more effective when the condition is diagnosed as early as possible, so if you notice any symptoms, it’s imperative to talk to your doctor.
Thankfully, the dangers of asbestos have been revealed and action has been taken to massively reduce the likelihood of future generations having to deal with these asbestos-related illnesses and health problems.
However, for those who spent many years in asbestos-filled environments in the past, these conditions are real risks that need to be taken seriously. If you find yourself struggling for breath or suffering from persistent coughs or any of the other symptoms listed above, speak with your doctor as soon as possible.