Asbestos is a building material that used to see exceptionally common use due to its myriad of benefits and savings to construction. Nowadays, asbestos is rarely found within most buildings because of the litany of hazards it exposes living creatures to and buildings tend to be worthless if people cannot work within them. Provided below is a more in-depth look at five of the perils of asbestos exposure.
The Pros and Cons of Asbestos
Before going into all of the details regarding the rigors of asbestos exposure, we think it is important to discuss why it used to be so prized in construction and then discuss how this material can negatively affect people’s health. For the uninformed, asbestos is a carcinogenic mass of mineral fibers that can reinforce materials and resists heat, electricity, and corrosion. These qualities are why it was prolific in the fabrication of cement, auto parts, building supplies, electrical components, and insulation.
For all of its boons to industry, it soon came to light that regularly inhaling the fibers contributed to a build-up within the body. Since the human body has no real mechanism for expelling asbestos fibers, the fibers simply built up in and around the lungs to the detriment of a person’s health.
While there is more than one problem associated with asbestos exposure, mesothelioma is the signature ailment that has been how so many companies have been successfully sued in asbestos lawsuits. This is a very rare form of cancer that affects the membranes found around the following parts of the body.
- The lungs and chest cavity, are known as the pleura.
- The abdominal cavity is known as the peritoneum.
- The membranes are found along other internal organs.
Mesothelioma can be a very delayed form of cancer that sometimes takes three or four decades after a person is initially exposed to asbestos before it will manifest.
While mesothelioma is certainly iconic to asbestos exposure, it is not the medical issue that features the inciting cause in its name. An asbestosis is a form of scarring that arises along the lungs as a direct consequence of inhaling fibers of asbestos. This scarring inhibits the pathways that oxygen and carbon dioxide use to traverse the lungs and makes it considerably harder for a patient to breathe. This particular health hazard only shows up in people who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos over a prolonged length of time; even then, the symptoms can take years before they arise.
This is a non-cancerous condition in the lungs that affects the membranes around the lungs and chest cavity. The membrane may either thicken up over its entirety, known as “diffuse pleural thickening,” just within selective portions, known as “pleural plaques,” or fluid can build up within the lungs, known as “pleural effusion.” Not every patient with pleural changes has issues breathing but a fair chunk of that demographic has impaired lung functions.
While mesothelioma is an iconic form of cancer derived from asbestos exposure, inhaling asbestos particulates can also contribute to regular lung cancer. This type of cancer manifests as a malignant tumor that saturates a person’s air passages and blocks the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide. While asbestos exposure certainly elevates a person’s risk of contracting cancer in body parts like their lungs, smoking tobacco is a surefire way to nearly guarantee contracting lung cancer.
Even beyond problems like lung cancer and mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos particles can also contribute to the development of cancer cells within the larynx, pharynx, ovaries, stomach, and even the colorectal area. At the end of the day, asbestos fibers are made in such a way that they are conducive to the creation of cancer cells within the body.
For all of its benefits to a variety of industries, asbestos is a carcinogenic concoction of mineral fibers that has contributed to a variety of health hazards, most of which happen to concern the respiratory system of the human body. While newer construction projects have done their best to avoid asbestos, the fact remains that frequenting older buildings with lingering amounts of the substance can elevate the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural diseases, and various non-lung forms of cancer.