What Harm Can Asbestos Cause to Your Health?
Asbestos was a popular building material up to the 1970s but its use continued until the 1990s. Asbestos was used because it has superb qualities in fire and heat resistance. It also resists chemical corrosion very well. This made it widely used in the construction industry for roofing, insulation and drywall. It was also used in commercial and industrial settings where these qualities were required. Before its health risks were well understood, asbestos was to be found in hundreds of everyday use items, as well as in many workplaces.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen. Disintegrating asbestos releases microscopic fibres that get into the human body via inhalation or ingestion. It is highly likely that most people have been exposed to trace quantities of asbestos because the mineral is very prevalent. Repeated exposure is the health hazard as the mineral accumulates in the body causing health changes.
Some professions are at a higher risk of asbestos exposure. These include people who worked in construction, steel mills, shipyards, and power plants. Navy veterans are on this list too due to the extensive use of asbestos in shipbuilding of military vessels.
Today, as asbestos gets phased out of buildings, people working on renovation, remodeling and demolition are at risk of asbestos exposure. The material’s dust that comes from sawing, sanding and grinding can be inhaled in risky quantities as to cause health damage. This dust comes from asbestos-containing paints, insulation, roofing materials, and joint compounds. These microscopic fibers are especially light and can remain airborne for several hours, posing a danger to those in the vicinity.
Asbestos Health Risks
Asbestos does not break down when it gets into the respiratory tract or digestive system of humans. The fibers accumulate and cause inflammation on the linings. This gradually causes DNA changes which lead to cancers. The cancers that have been linked to asbestos include:
- Lung cancer – The most common cancer caused by asbestos
- Mesothelioma – This is cancer that develops on the linings of the digestive and respiratory systems
- Laryngeal cancer – Sometimes referred to as the cancer of the throat
- Ovarian cancer
There are non-cancer ailments that have been linked to asbestos as well. These include:
- Asbestosis – Inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue such that it is not able to expand properly.
- Pleural plaques – Thickening of the lung lining
- Pleural effusion – Buildup of fluid around the lungs, which causes breathing difficulties
It takes up to 10 years for the health damage to show. It can take as long as 20-50 years for asbestos-related cancer to appear.