Asbestos Exposure: Health Risks And How To Avoid It
Asbestos has been used as an important component in manufacturing and construction materials for decades, especially during and after World War II. However, this naturally occurring fibrous mineral is extremely dangerous to human health. Researchers have discovered that the fibers that separate from asbestos upon handling and breakage are so tiny that they can easily be inhaled.
Repeated exposure to asbestos can lead to serious health conditions such as lung problems and cancer. So, is there any way to protect yourself?
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How do you get exposed to asbestos?
People get exposed to it every day. The worst thing about asbestos exposure is that you won’t notice the symptoms until it’s too late. For instance, mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos that develops in the lungs’ lining. The mortality rates are high for mesothelioma, and often, it’s diagnosed when the disease has advanced to its final stage.
That’s why it’s important for people working in asbestos-infested environments to keep a keen eye on their symptoms. At first instances of consistent chest infections, severe coughing, unusual lumps under the chest’s skin, and chest pain, you should go to the best mesothelioma doctors and get diagnosed immediately. Asbestos-related diseases are preventable but only if caught early on.
The biggest risk of asbestos exposure is through microscopic airborne particles. People suffering from asbestos-related health problems are mostly exposed to it through their occupations. People working in shipbuilding, construction, automotive, asbestos mining, milling, and other manufacturing industries should be careful of their working environments. They should be aware of the products they are handling and consult medical and legal experts if they think they’re unnecessarily being exposed to asbestos.
What risks does asbestos exposure pose to health?
Even though a small amount of asbestos in the air, soil, and even water doesn’t pose a serious threat to human health, consistent exposure to high dosages is dangerous. Constant inhalation of asbestos fibers can result in different health risks and can depend on some of the following factors:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Chemical makeup of the asbestos fibers
- Size and shape
- Duration and dosage
- Genetic factors of individuals
Different types of diseases can be developed depending on how the person was exposed to asbestos. For instance, inhalation of this toxic material results in the following two most common types of dangerous diseases:
- Mesothelioma: This is an incredibly aggressive and rare cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and the chest cavity. The disease can also begin around the heart and in the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma often goes undetected and surfaces only when it has reached an advanced stage. Symptoms may not even appear until 30 to 40 years of asbestos exposure.
- Lung cancer: Pre-existing lung conditions and heavy smoking combined with high asbestos exposure can lead to the development of a malignant tumor. The tumor can block the lung’s air passage, resulting in respiratory failure and other complications.
Apart from cancerous diseases, asbestos exposure can also lead to fatal non-cancerous diseases like the following:
- Pleural disease: In this condition, the lining or the membrane of the chest cavity and the lung can become thick. It can also cause fluid buildup around the lungs, and the patient can experience difficulty breathing and even reduced lung functionality.
- Asbestosis: The tiny asbestos fibers can get stuck in the lung’s lining and cause scarring. Asbestosis is a non-cancerous asbestos-induced condition where the scarring causes difficult intake and outtake of oxygen and carbon from the lungs.
How to avoid asbestos exposure?
Asbestos-related diseases can be prevented if proper measures are taken to reduce exposure. The best way to reduce the chances of airborne exposure is to wear proper masks and protective gear. Ensure that you are getting regular checkups, and since asbestos manufacturing is banned, you should consult with your employer about possible exposure.
Ingestion and skin-to-skin transfer are the least dangerous means of exposure, but the possibility cannot be completely excluded. According to one study, families of workers with high asbestos exposure face an increased risk of transmitting the harmful substance through skin contact and developing mesothelioma. You could be bringing this toxic substance into your home through your clothes, shoes, hair, and even skin. That’s why people working with asbestos must discard their working clothes or have them washed regularly. Also, workers with a high risk of transmitting asbestos through their skin because of their occupation should be required to shower before leaving for home.
The risk of developing a certain disease may be inevitable, but prevention can reduce the risk almost to zero. That’s why people working in asbestos-related environments should be extra careful of their protective gear and never forget to wear thick gloves, boots, masks, and helmets. If you come across anything labeled “asbestos”, don’t drill, damage, or disturb that material. It’s important to report any damaged or dislodged material to the concerned authorities and not try to handle it yourself.
If you feel something’s wrong with your health, immediately opt for a checkup and make it a habit of going for annual checkups even if you don’t feel sick.
Asbestos exposure is a serious threat to you and your family’s health. High dosage and consistent exposure can lead to several life-threatening diseases. Fortunately, prevention is possible, and with the help of a few precautionary measures, you can protect yourself from terrible diseases. The most important thing you can do is stay on top of your health and notice anything unusual. Ensure that you are talking to the right doctors and undergoing regular checkups.