Asbestos Exposures and Effects
Asbestos can be defined as a group of minerals that
occur naturally as bundles of fibers, which can be separated
into thin threads. The advantage of asbestos that promoted
its wide use in building and other industries was that
it was not affected by heat, chemicals and did not conduct
Typical uses include: strengthening cement and plastics,
insulation, fireproofing, sound absorption, vehicle
brake shoes and clutch pads.
It’s subsequently discovered disadvantage is that
asbestos fiber masses tend to break easily tiny particles
These aerodynamic fibre dust particles are easily inhaled
or swallowed, leading to serious health problems like
lung cancer, mesothelioma and other lung related complications.
There is no harm as long as materials containing asbestos
are not damaged and fibers are not spread into the air.
Particles of asbestos dust can be carried on clothes
and food, putting more people at risk.
Effects of asbestos exposure
Damage from asbestos inhalation or ingestion is most
often not noticed for more than twenty years. The inhalation
of some kinds of asbestos fiber leads to serious illnesses,
which include asbestosis, mesothelioma, and asbestos
related lung cancer.
is a disease in which cancerous cells start growing
around the heart, chest or abdominal region of the body.
affects the mesothelium membrane that covers the internal
organs of the body and allows them to easily move against
each other. Mesothelioma can cause growth of mesothelium
beyond control which in turn damages the organs. It
takes about 30-40 years after asbestos exposure for
mesothelioma symptoms to occur.
Inhalation of asbestos causes scar tissue to develop
on lower lobes of the lungs. The scarring reduces the
elasticity of the lung, leading to lacerations in lung
tissue. It also impairs the lungs effective volume and
its ability to exchange gases, reducing the oxygen uptake
by blood. By the time the symptoms and signs are recognized,
they may be beyond treatment and may prove fatal.
Inhalation can also lead to cancer of the pleural
lining, called Mesothelioma. By the time Mesothelioma
is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.
Mesotheliomas can also develop in the pericardium, a
lining surrounding the heart. This is then referred
to as Pericardial Mesothelioma.
Typical symptoms include:
- Respiratory symptoms such as: shortness of breath,
persistent cough and pain in the chest while breathing
- Digestive disorders such as: loss of appetite,
nausea and vomiting and consequent weight loss
- General malaise: weakness and fatigue, fever
- Abdominal pain
more on diagnosis of Mesothelioma.
information on treatment of Mesothelioma.
Much of the research into mesothelioma is learning
the effects of asbestos upon cellsl and thereby learning
how cell damage can be prevented or treated. Researchers
are studying exactly how asbestos causes meosthelial
tissue to develop into a mesothelioma.
While asbestos is the major cause of many diseases
and cancers such as pericardial mesothelioma, peritoneal
mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma and other problems,
the latest research shows cases of mesothelioma cancer
where patients did not have any prior asbestos exposure.
Other possible causes such as prior exposure to radiation;
when a substance called thorium dioxide was used in
some X-ray tests.
Mesothelioma can also develop from contact with some
minerals closely related to asbestos that are found
in the soil.
Smoking does not appear to increase or cause mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma cancer is not geneticallty passed, contagious
and cannot be passed on to other people.
Older buildings that have exposed insulation that
contains asbestos or areas where asbestos fibers are
disturbed or exposed should be checked by experts and
repaired or removed.
Avoiding Asbestos Exposure
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) has set down guidelines for handling and working
- Workers wear approved respirators and masks to prevent
inhalation of the material.
- Installing proper filtration plants in some industries.
- Abiding by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) at 0.1 fibers
per cubic centimeter (f/cc) for an 8 hour time weighted
average to maintain clean atmosphere at places where
asbestos is handled.
Handling Asbestos Materials
Asbestos fixed firmly and used as insulation within
enclosed areas such as walls and pipes is not likely
to pose a health hazard with regard to malignant pleural
Asbestos should not sawed, drilled or handled in any
other manner that could cause the asbestos fibers to
be diffused into the air, and inhaled.
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