How Does Asbestos Affect Our Health?

Most people are exposed to small amounts of asbestos throughout their daily lives and do not develop health issues.  Asbestos in solid form is typically not an issue.  However, when it begins to crumble, is sawed, scraped, or sanded, it become a serious threat.  The asbestos fibers can then be inhaled causing damage to our respiratory system or ingested causing damage to the lining of the stomach.

By studying groups of people who have been exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we have learned that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to

  • lung cancer: the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that destroy healthy tissue,
  • mesothelioma: a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and
  • asbestosis: scarring of the lung tissues.

The risk to one’s health increases under the following conditions:

  • fiber size,
  • the density of fiber dust,
  • the length of time exposed,
  • personal susceptibility,
  • and smoking.

The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear for 10 to 40 years after the initial exposure.  Symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath,
  • dry or persistent cough,
  • bluish lips and fingertips,
  • pain from breathing,
  • weight loss, and
  • blood in sputum or stools.


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