Asbestos was once considered something of a wonder material for its durability and its resistance to heat and corrosion. There was a time when it could be found in textiles, drywall, clothing, gaskets, insulation, cement, pumps, brakes, machinery and other building materials. That changed years ago when it was discovered that asbestos exposure could be linked to serious health conditions such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Even though asbestos isn’t as prominent as it once was, asbestos-related illnesses still affect thousands of Americans every year.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally-occurring fibrous minerals. The minerals have thin, microscopic fibers that are highly resistant to heat, corrosion and pressure, which is why they were so widely used in the construction, steel mill, chemical plant, power generating and shipbuilding industries. If left alone, materials containing asbestos are relatively harmless, but when they are disturbed they can shed microscopic fibers that can be ingested or inhaled. These fibers can remain in the body for years and cause some serious health issues if they accumulate. The most deadly condition associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the lining around the lungs and abdomen. However, asbestos exposure has also been linked to other conditions such as asbestosis and lung cancer.
Who is At Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Typically, health conditions associated with asbestos develop several years after exposure. It is most common in patients who worked in factories, construction sites, chemical plants, power generating stations and steel mills when asbestos use was more common, but these workers’ families may also have been put at risk due to asbestos dust being tracked into their homes.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
Most of the problems associated with asbestos exposure begin in the respiratory system. The symptoms of asbestos exposure vary depending on the disease, but they typically include a persistent cough, chest pain, chest tightness, a loss of appetite and a crackling sound that can be heard in the lungs when inhaling. Some patients may also experience weight loss, bowel obstructions, anemia and fever if the exposure is in the abdomen. These are symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma.
What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to Asbestos
If you suspect that your health problems are associated with asbestos exposure, the first thing you should do is speak to your doctor and receive a proper diagnosis. Many of the symptoms of mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis won’t present themselves until the conditions are in advanced stages, but treatment may still be possible. You and your family may also be entitled to compensation from the parties responsible for the asbestos exposure.