The Hazards Of Asbestos Exposure

As one of the most widely-used building materials, asbestos has been used in many applications for more than 100 years. Many construction workers and manufacturers have been exposed to the toxic substance for decades, and now, millions of people worldwide. However, asbestos exposure has been linked to many severe and deadly forms of cancer.

As a natural substance, asbestos is long known to cause dangerous health effects in humans. However, the impact of long-term exposure has only been revealed in the past several decades. Thanks to this and the many thousands of asbestos-related cases that have been reported over the years is not just the occasional exposure that causes these harmful effects.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, the chances are that you have suffered quite a bit of harm. This article is a comprehensive guide to the dangers of asbestos exposure. Read on to learn more about its effects, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in several rock types worldwide. It is usually colored brown, grey, or white and occurs as small, flat, or curly crystals.
It was first mined commercially in the mid-19th century and was used to make some of the earliest artificial materials, including roofing shingles, insulation, brake linings, and many other things.

Because it is easily moldable, it has been and continues to be used in a wide variety of construction and industrial applications. It is employed in products such as roofing, gaskets, electrical components, and many other things.

When asbestos is inhaled, it is often ingested, meaning that the substance enters the body through the digestive tract. However, it can also be absorbed through the skin. This is especially true of workers exposed to asbestos during maintenance and repair jobs on infrastructure such as roofs, walls, pipes, or other structures.

Asbestos Exposure at Job Sites

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that as many as 350,000 workers may be exposed to asbestos at worksites each year. While the dangers of this naturally occurring mineral have been widely known for many years, contractors have only recently begun to take action to protect their employees.

While it's important to know what asbestos is, it's also imperative to understand how to stay safe while working with this material. Unfortunately, while many contractors have started to take more extraordinary precautions, many still aren't adequately protecting their employees. Most construction sites that use asbestos materials are still in the early planning stages, so there aren't any workers exposed to asbestos. When asbestos is disturbed, as with a digger, sander, or other tools, it can release several carcinogenic particles.

How to Stay Safe When Working with Asbestos

To stay safe while working with asbestos, first and foremost, do not disturb the asbestos material. This includes digging at or near the fabric, using a power tool near the material, or grinding or sanding. If you must move a tool near asbestos material, put it in a truck or a storage container that is hooded and ventilated. While it may seem like common sense, it is essential to remember not to disturb the asbestos material. This includes not touching the material and not touching tools that have been near the material.

Asbestos is mainly used in several military facilities for insulation, fireproof, or heat resistance pipes. Many Military boats and ships used this kind of material. Those in the Navy are at an incredibly high risk of exposure because the insulating properties of asbestos make it ideal for shipbuilding and other construction projects. Asbestos cloth and tape are used for the equipment on board, such as the radar or supersonic airplane engine. Fortunately, the vast majority of contractors will never come in contact with asbestos.

Exposure at a job site can be a real problem for construction workers, shipyard workers, and anyone else who works with asbestos. Shipyards use various materials, from wood to steel to cork, to construct vessels. The use of asbestos in shipyards is limited to the electrical insulation of machinery. Construction workers working in shipyards are particularly at risk because they often handle asbestos-containing materials. They may also have to perform maintenance on machinery that uses asbestos, increasing their chances of asbestos exposure.

Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure

Finding out if you've been exposed to asbestos can be challenging. The symptoms of its exposure vary depending on the type of asbestos fiber inhaled. Some people aren't affected, while others will experience:

  • itchy eyes
  • a sore throat
  • and headaches.

The asbestos-related disease usually occurs 10 to 40 years after the person is exposed to asbestos. There are no known measures for preventing asbestos-related diseases. Severe cases of respiratory problems can be treated with medications, which may help improve life expectancy in extreme cases.

Many people exposed to asbestos do not experience any symptoms, and when symptoms do occur, they may be subtle. Some people may experience a mild, flu-like illness easily mistaken for the common cold. However, symptoms are much more severe, and severe diseases can occur.

These more severe symptoms may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightness
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • chest pain
  • and difficulty breathing.

People exposed to asbestos often have a chronic cough that causes them to produce large amounts of phlegm.

Diagnosis of Asbestos Exposure

People exposed to asbestos may develop serious health problems, including lung cancer, lung scarring, and causes of mesothelioma. A doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical examination to detect exposure. A chest x-ray is usually the next step in diagnosing it. Other tests that may be ordered include blood tests, pulmonary function tests, and CT or PET scans.

Another way to diagnose it is by doing a workplace or environmental assessment. This will help determine the extent of your direction and will help determine whether or not other symptoms may be related to the exposure.

How is Asbestos Exposure Detected?

Asbestos is usually only detected in the body after being exposed to it. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

Shortness of breath

When asbestos is present in a home or building, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled by residents. Those fibers can become lodged in the lungs and bronchial tubes, causing breathing problems.

Chest pain and tightness

Chest pain is a common symptom. Some people describe it as an elephant sitting on their chest, and others compare it to a heavyweight pushing down on them. Chest pain can sometimes be relieved by taking deep breaths or lying down. The lungs or chest wall pain is usually worse with activity or exercise. People exposed to asbestos may think they are suffering from a common cold, with symptoms such as chest tightness, inflammation, swelling of the chest tissue, and difficulty breathing. Because of their non-specific nature, these symptoms often go ignored.


This can indicate a severe respiratory condition called asbestosis, which causes scarred and stiff lungs. Another severe illness causes of mesothelioma, cancer that tends to stay localized in the chest and abdominal organs.


Asbestos does not have a taste, color, or odor. It is not easy to detect. The first warning sign of asbestos fibers in the air is coughing. Coughing is the body's natural way of trying to expel the fibers.

These symptoms can indicate various health problems, including viral illnesses like the common cold. In such cases, a doctor may perform a complete physical examination. If a doctor does not make any other diagnosis for your symptoms, you may want to speak with a lawyer or medical malpractice attorney about your case.

Cancers Caused By Asbestos Exposure


Asbestos causes mesothelioma, a form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs or abdomen.

Lung Cancer

Asbestos-related lung cancer is deadly because the asbestos fibers lodge deep into the lungs, causing cellular damage and cancer.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the second most dangerous of all cancers caused by asbestos. The exposure causes damage to the mesothelium, a unique internal lining that covers many of the internal organs in our body, including the ovaries, causing it to grow unusually fast. This abnormal growth eventually forms tumors that can rupture and spread cancerous cells into other parts of your body. Because ovarian cancer tends to grow at its own pace and does not cause any symptoms until it is already in an advanced stage, it is hard for doctors to diagnose early.

Noncancerous Conditions Caused By Asbestos

Some of the most common non-carcinogenic health effects from exposure to asbestos fibers are:


Asbestosis is a severe lung disease that occurs when inhaled asbestos fibers stay in the lungs. It can cause scarring of the lungs, making it hard to breathe.

Pleural plaques

Pleural plaques are asbestos-related scarring found on the outer walls of the lungs, the diaphragm, or tissue around the lungs. Pleural plaques are also known as pleural thickening. When exposed, asbestos fibers will irritate the cells in your lung and cause inflammation and scarring, which can thicken over time.

Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion is when fluid builds up between the lung and chest wall. A large pleural effusion may cause breathing difficulties. A fluid sample removed from the pleural space (pleural fluid) may be tested to determine if asbestos causes the effusion.

Diffuse Pleural Thickening

Diffuse Pleural Thickening is the thickening of the lung lining that occurs when asbestos fibers cause irritation and inflammation in the lungs. If necessary, this is a nonmalignant condition and may be treated with surgery.


Pleurisy is an inflammation of the lining of the lung cavity known as the pleura. Symptoms include sharp, stabbing pain in the chest accompanied by difficulty breathing.


Atelectasis is a condition in which your airways become filled with mucus, and the walls of the airways are collapsed, preventing them from moving enough air into the lungs. It commonly occurs because of infection or a buildup of mucus that blocks airflow.

How to Treat Asbestos Exposure

There is no definitive treatment for its exposure. However, symptoms can be treated, and you may be able to reduce your risk of exposure. One of the most important things you can do is stay healthy. If you have a cold or other illness, you should avoid exposing others to it by staying home from work or school until you feel better.

There is no way to avoid exposure at a job site altogether. However, you can lower your exposure by following these tips:

• If you are concerned about exposure, you can speak to your employer about safe practices.
• Limit your exposure by wearing appropriate safety gear.
• If exposed, do your best to wash your hands and stay away from other workers who are not wearing personal protection equipment.
• If you are diagnosed with asbestosis, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that you be medically evaluated and provided treatment.

Can Asbestos Be Removed from the Body?

Asbestos is a fibrous material that cannot be removed from the body. It takes time for a person's body's cells to break down asbestos fibers into a form that may cause problems. The only way to prevent exposure is to avoid contact with it. If someone is exposed to asbestos, they should not panic and assume the disclosure will be harmful immediately. People exposed to asbestos may develop diseases such as causes of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis, depending on the exposure level and the type of inhaled or ingested fibers.


Toxic chemical exposure is not a rare occurrence, and it can be hazardous. If you have been exposed to asbestos, your healthcare provider can help you determine if you have been affected. Your doctor can also perform a thorough physical exam, which will help them determine the extent of your exposure and assess the severity of your symptoms or causes of mesothelioma. If the symptoms are mild enough not to warrant a doctor's attention, you can still investigate your rights and pursue a legal claim. A qualified asbestos attorney can help you determine if you have a mesothelioma claim and if you need to hire one.

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