ASBESTOSIS: Basic Causes, Symptoms, Risks, and Prevention

What Is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis also known as interstitial pneumonitis or pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic lung disease that develops when asbestos fibers cause leisons in the lungs. The scarring in lungs restricts the ability of oxygen to enter into the bloodstream. It also halts breathing and obstructs the pulmonary system.

What Is Asbestos?

If you or anyone you know have worked in the construction industry, you might have been exposed to asbestos during your work. The majority of buildings constructed during the 20th century contain a material asbestos that was regarded as fireproofing and strong constructing material.

Asbestos is resistant to heat and corrosion. It was used extensively in products such as insulation, cement and some floor tiles.Therefore this material can be found in many American homes, the roofs, chimneys, insulation material, the walls, floor, ceiling tiles, and ducting and heating systems. 

If you have been working in such industries or workplaces that contain asbestos, then you need special care about your health. Employers of asbestos related industries must provide safest environment to its workers so that the employees don’t acquire such lung-diseases.

If you have been exposed to asbestos due to the negligence of your employee then you can hire an asbestos lawyer to file an asbestosis lawsuit against your employer and earn a handsome compensation amount to compensate for your loss.

Exposure To Asbestos

Long time exposure to asbestos’s airborne fibers can cause lung tissue scarring and shortness of breath. Symptoms of asbestosis usually do not appear until many years after prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres. Federal government began regulating the use of asbestos products including white asbestos in the 1970s. Now, acquiring asbestosis is less likely if employer’s safety procedures are followed strictly.

Dangers Of Asbestos

If asbestos is left undisturbed then it is safe and there is no need to worry about this but when there is any damage in the asbestos material then it causes the asbestos fibres to fly in the air and become Airborne. These fibres may lodge into the lungs of an individual and can be hazardous by causing asbestoses, mesothelioma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Asbestosis is a life threatening illness. Many cases of asbestos-illness originate from workplace exposure to asbestos. It is very difficult to identify asbestos fibres because they are not visible in the conventional X-rays. 

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the total number of asbestos-related deaths in the USA may exceed 200,000 by the year 2030.

Common Symptoms Of Asbestosis

Mostly, asbestosis symptoms don’t appear until approximately 20 years after exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis poisoning symptoms may vary in severity, from mild to severe. Common symptoms of asbestoses include:

  • A persistent, dry cough
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Finger clubbing/enlarged fingertips
  • Toes appear wider and rounder than normal
  • Tightness in chest
  • Loss of appetite with weight loss
  • Deformation in nails

Risk Factors Associated With Asbestosis

Some of the common risk factors associated with asbestos are as follows: 

  1. Asbestos is safe if it is left undisturbed but when it is raped, scratched, scraped, and destroyed then its fibres release into the air and become Airborne. These airborne asbestos fibres can get into the lungs of the people working or residing in that place.  long-term exposure to these fibers may cause asbestosis and lung diseases.
  2. You have a higher chance of acquiring the asbestos-illness if you smoke.
  3. People who work in mining, milling, manufacturing, installation or removal of asbestos materials are at risk of asbestose. 
  4. If you work in a workplace area or Industry that is associated with asbestos  then you are at a higher risk for developing pulmonary diseases.
  5. Risk of developing asbestosis is proportional to the amount and the years of exposure to asbestos. The greater the exposure is, the greater the risk is of lung cancer.
  6. If you work at the construction site then you can acquire mesothelioma and lung cancer.
  7. If one of your family members works at asbestos workplace sites,  then you can get a second hand exposure. 
  8. People living close to mines may also be exposed to asbestos fibers.

Common Causes Of Asbestosis

If you are exposed to high levels of asbestos dust over a long period of time, some of the airborne fibers become embedded in your lungs and lead to the formation of scar tissue. The asbestos fibers irritate the scar lung tissue, causing the lungs to become stiff. The scarring prevents your lung tissue from expanding and contracting normally. Hence the breathing becomes difficult.

Smoking increases the retention of asbestos fibers or asbestosis dust in the lungs, and often results in a faster progression of the illness.

Asbestos is still in use in certain industries and occupations, but the government  closely monitors it through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If unfortunately you have been badly exposed to asbestos fibers then you can hire a mesothelioma lawyer to file a case against your employer.

Mesothelioma Vs Asbestosis

Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer while asbestosis is non cancerous illness involving the scaring of lung tissues. However, asbestoses can lead to mesothelioma. Asbestosis has longer prognosis while mesothelioma has shorter prognoses. Mesothelioma needs medical biopsy for diagnosis because signs of asbestos are difficult to be diagnosed in this case. While in case of later one, it can be diagnosed with scans. Followings are the main differences between mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Mesothelioma VS Asbestosis

Industries With High Asbestos Exposure Risks

Certain industries including the following have high amounts of the asbestos mineral:

  1. Asbestos mining
  2. Agriculture
  3. Firefighting
  4. Power plants
  5. Railroads
  6. Automobile repair
  7. Food processing
  8. Construction
  9. Paper manufacturing
  10. Pulp manufacturing
  11. Glass manufacturing
  12. Metal manufacturing
  13. Textile manufacturing
  14. Shipbuilding and repair
  15. Chemical manufacturing
  16. Aerospace manufacturing
  17. Automotive manufacturing
  18. Electronics manufacturing
  19. Pharmaceutical manufacturing

Individual Occupations With High Asbestos Risk Factors

Individual occupations with a high incidence of asbestos exposure are the following:

  1. Painters
  2. Carpenters
  3. Machinists
  4. Electricians
  5. Cement workers
  6. Drywall workers
  7. Insulation workers
  8. Navy yard workers
  9. Aircraft mechanics
  10. Maintenance mechanics
  11. Motor vehicle mechanics

What To Do If You’ve Been Exposed To Asbestos

  1. If you have been exposing your body to asbestos for more than 10 years, you should visit your physician for screening every 3 to 5 years.
  2. If you are experiencing increasing shortness of breath, consult your healthcare provider and talk about the possibility of asbestosis.
  3. Use safety equipment at work such as safety gloves, masks, etc.
  4. Employers must watch the levels of exposure in the workplace.
  5. Employers must make it sure that asbestos related work must be done in safe areas.
  6. Routine medical exams, which can lead to an early diagnosis of asbestosis, are also helpful.
  7. Work in the decontaminated areas.
  8. You should contact the nearest OSHA office if you think your employer doesn’t comply with safety standards.
  9. You must hire best mesohelioma law firm or asbestos lung cancer lawyers to file a asbestos lung cancer lawsuit against your employer for negligence if any.

Testing For And Diagnosing Asbestosis

Your doctor will perform several tests to check airflow to and from your lungs in asbestosis testing. X-rays are done to diagnose white or honeycomb appearance on lungs or chest. Pulmonary function tests  measure the amount of air you can inhale. CT scans can be used to examine your lungs in more detail.

Simple physical exam includes simple breathing test in which your healthcare provider  will use a stethoscope to listen for abnormal breath sounds from your lungs. Your physician might also order a biopsy to look for asbestos fibers in a sample of your disected lung tissues.

Prevention From Asbestos Related Diseases

  1. There’s no risk of exposure as long as the asbestos is undisturbed, so avoid scratching the surface of materials that contain asbestos.
  2. Take special safety measures during your work at construction sites to prevent yourself from asbestos lung cancer.
  3. Reduce exposure to asbestos to prevent asbestos related illness
  4. Many pre 1970s buildings have materials such as pipes and floor tiles that contain asbestos. Avoid contact with such materials to avoid the signs of asbestos poisoning.
  5. Change your workplace clothes, safely in the decontamination area.
  6. Visit your doctor on regular basis, and get tested for asbestos in lungs fibres through the X-rays and other diagnostic techniques.

Treatment Options For Asbestosis

Asbestosis can’t be cured completely, and it has many types such as blue asbestosis. However, there are a few treatments that can help control or reduce symptoms. Prescription inhalers may loosen congestion inside the lungs.

If you have low oxygen levels in your blood then supplemental oxygen from a mask or tubes that fit inside your nose can be beneficial.

Asbestosis treatments prevent the disease from worsening. Avoiding further exposure to asbestos is the cure and treatment of asbestosis. A lung transplant might be an option if your condition is severe.

Long-term Outlook And Complications Of Asbestosis

People who have asbestosis but don’t develop complications and can live for decades. Asbestos exposure can lead to malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a severe form of lung cancer. If you have asbestosis, you are at higher risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking can also aggravate your health conditions. 

A long term exposure to asbestos may also develop malignant mesothelioma in which tissues are formed around the lung. Asbestos exposure is also associated with the buildup of fluid around lungs, a condition known as pleural effusion.

This was all about the causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment of asbestosis.

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