Asbestos is a natural mineral that can be found in rocks and soil. There are several health risks linked to Asbestos. It’s a very versatile mineral, due to its favorable properties such as heat, chemical and electrical resistance, good insulation and also strength. This made it a common material in the making of military ships, tanks, aircraft and also in the construction of homes and commercial buildings. However, these properties could not compare to the variety of health risks associated with asbestos. It was banned in over 50 countries from the year 2003.
Health Hazards of Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos fibers easily break into small pieces when damaged, and these can either be inhaled or ingested. Once in the body, they are easily trapped in the lungs and cannot be expelled, and with continuous exposure, one’s health is compromised. One of the most common asbestos related diseases is known as Asbestosis, a chronic lung disease that may lead to the development of lung cancer. This disease causes scarring over the lungs and between the air sacs, leading to a number of respiratory complications. The other disease is mesothelioma, a rare type of lung cancer that affects only 0.3 in every 100,000 females and 1 in 100,000 for males. This one usually affects the outer lining of the lungs and the abdominal cavity.
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Symptoms of Being Exposed to Asbestos
Most symptoms associated with asbestos exposure can be easily confused for less hazardous respiratory problems like asthma and pneumonia. They include chest pain, fatigue, difficulty in breathing, persistent coughs, fluid build up in the lungs and weight loss. These symptoms could take up to 30 years to manifest, making it hard to diagnose a patient with an asbestos related illness.
When one has mesothelioma, the shortness of breath and chest pain is usually caused by the fluid build up and tumors pressing against the chest, and with time, this pain could advance on to the shoulders and back. As the disease worsens, the patient starts to experience fatigue, fever and difficulty in swallowing and breathing. During advanced stages, one may need a continuous supply of oxygen. In order to correctly diagnose this condition, one needs to undergo several tests and procedures for a couple of months.
Asbestosis patients experience swelling in the neck and/or face, high blood pressure and bloody sputum, in addition to the general symptoms associated with asbestos exposure. This is majorly caused by the scarring of lung tissue after continuous exposure, which makes the respiratory process of oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange difficult, leading to fatigue. Since the lungs don’t receive enough oxygen, the heart usually has to work harder in order to compensate for this deficiency. This is what causes the high blood pressure and fluid build up in the lungs, neck, face and sometimes abdomen, which can cause bloating. Subsequently, it leads to a reduced appetite and eventually weight loss. In advanced cases, the fingers could also swell and get deformed.
How Asbestos Causes Lung Cancer?
Asbestos is also known to cause lung cancer, which differs from mesothelioma. When one inhales asbestos fibers, they become lodged in the lungs, and it is where they get trapped that determines which cancer one may develop. The smaller fibers usually get trapped in the lining of the lungs. This is what causes mesothelioma. The larger ones get trapped in the lung tissue, and this is what causes lung cancer. Years later, the amount of scarring and damage done to the cells leads to the formation of tumors, and subsequently lung cancer. Asbestos lung cancer manifests itself after ten years, and it’s usually diagnosed alongside asbestosis. Smokers are at a higher risk since their lungs are already damaged, making it even more difficult for the asbestos fibers to get expelled.
How Do You Reduce Your Risk of Exposure?
In order to reduce your risk of exposure, it’s important to let professionals handle any type of removal or repairs in your building or home. If you’re not sure whether something contains asbestos, always assume it does and let someone who is licensed to handle it deal with it. Construction workers should also avoid using power tools as they leave a lot of dust in the air. Always use protective masks that are specifically for working with asbestos. All clothes should also be disposed of and one should shower thoroughly in order to avoid taking back the toxic dust home. Moreover, avoid sweeping up any debris and instead use a vacuum cleaner and dispose all the trash in a licensed site.