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Health Effects from Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is definitely not something you would want to find in your home. Nor is it something you would particularly want to encounter daily at work. Commonly used in household products and construction supplies pre-1990, it has been banned for use since then (and products containing it discontinued) after being found to have caused serious problems to human health.
However, the risks that it poses still remain, years after the ban on its use started. It’s important to understand just how much asbestos can affect lives. Read on to find out more.

1. Asbestos can cause chronic and rare life-threatening lung diseases.

Asbestos exposure can lead to the development of chronic lung diseases such as asbestosis, which is characterized by a scar-like tissue forming in the lungs. This decreases the lungs’ elasticity, which in turn causes the person’s breathing to be more labored and difficult. The development of this disease usually requires an individual to have several years of exposure to asbestos fibers, and the progression varies from one person to another.

2. Asbestos can cause lung cancer.

The risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure depends on several factors. However, studies have shown that workers coming into contact with or having constant exposure to asbestos for 1-12 months had an increased risk of getting lung cancer several years after initial exposure. On average, it takes 20 to 30 years from initial exposure to asbestos before cancer development happens. When symptoms start showing, it often means that the cancer is in an advanced stage, as lung cancer does not commonly cause symptoms during the early stages of development.

3. Asbestos can lay dormant in the respiratory walls for years.

Asbestos-related diseases often start showing a decade or more after initial exposure. This is because asbestos fibers can be inhaled into the lungs, and latch on to the lung walls where it an lay dormant for years before it starts causing any damage.

4. Asbestos-related diseases can occur even without direct exposure to asbestos.

There have been documented cases wherein a family member of someone whose job puts him at risk of exposure to asbestos was diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. This could be due to the fact that asbestos fibers can stay on clothes, which when worn home, can put other family members at risk of inhaling or ingesting them.

Asbestos exposure should definitely be avoided. If you work in a high-risk job that puts you in danger of being exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, it is imperative to be properly armed with the knowledge and expertise in handling asbestos and other toxic substances. If you haven’t had the 40 hour hazwoper training, ask your employer for assistance in completing this requirement before starting the job.