What are the dangers of asbestos?

In some cases, asbestos has lead to many serious illnesses, some even fatal. Even in those instances where individuals do not suffer a serious illness due to exposure to asbestos, their health has often worsened. The purpose of this article is to highlight the health risks caused by exposure to asbestos. Because there are so many side-effects from exposure to it and research is ongoing, this is by no means is a complete rendition of the consequences that exposure to asbestos can lead to, given which anyone with a concern that asbestos has worsened their health should consult their physician.

What is Asbestos?

Though many people view asbestos as a single substance, it is actually the name given to six fibrous minerals. Because these fibers, when woven together, are very strong, resistant to heat, and can be acquired at very little cost, they have been used by manufacturers in various applications for years.

For instance, for many years car manufacturers have used asbestos in everything from vehicle brakes and gaskets to roof linings. It has also been used frequently by manufacturers of cement, tile and insulation, to name just a few products.

Illnesses from Asbestos

Exposure to asbestos can lead to several illnesses, the two most common of which are:

a) Mesothelioma, a illness characterized by a tumor in one’s chest or abdomen; and

b) Asbestosis, which reduces ones breathing capacity due to inflammation and scarring of the lung.

Even those lucky enough to escape the above ailments can have affected health from asbestos exposure. One common result from exposure is pleural effusion, which involves a buildup of fluid in the area of the lungs making it very difficult to breath and causing serious pain. Because the ailments from exposure to asbestos can take years, even decades to appear, most industries in the US continued to use asbestos until roughly 1990. 

The National Institute of Health and Safety reported that between 1999 and 2005, over 18,000 individuals in the United States died from mesothelioma, declaring that workers were most at risk in the following five industries: 1) Shipbuilding and Repairing; 2) Industrial and Miscellaneous Chemicals; 3) Petroleum Refining; 4) Electric Light and Power; and 5) Construction. (www.asbestosnews.com/mesothelioma/meso_deaths_industry)