Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in various construction materials and consumer products in the 20th century due to its durability and heat resistance. However, asbestos exposure is now associated with severe health risks. When asbestos-containing materials break down or are disturbed, microscopic fibers are released into the air, which can be inhaled into the lungs. These sharp, durable fibers can then cause internal damage and lead to serious diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. 

Over 30 million pounds of asbestos are still imported into the U.S. every year in various industrial applications like roofing, flooring, and automobile brake pads. Additionally, asbestos can still be found in older buildings built before the late 1970s. It is estimated that 1.3 million construction and general industry workers are exposed to asbestos on the job today. Due to the prevalence of asbestos exposure, asbestos-related diseases kill 12,000-15,000 Americans each year.

The dangers of asbestos exposure have been well-established. If you have concerns about potential contact with asbestos, it is important to understand the health risks and take proper precautions. Consulting an experienced asbestos attorney can also help you determine if you have any legal options in cases of negligence.

Here are eight major health risks linked to asbestos exposure.


Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. This disease is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a “dose-response” disease, meaning the risk rises with greater exposure. 

The latency period is very long, so mesothelioma typically develops 10-60 years after the initial exposure. Early symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and unexplained weight loss. The prognosis for mesothelioma is often poor, but treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can help extend a patient’s life expectancy. 

Because mesothelioma is almost always tied to asbestos exposure, patients may have legal options against negligent corporations. For those seeking guidance or considering legal action, www.simmonsfirm.com offers expertise in handling mesothelioma cases and can provide valuable insights into potential legal recourse.


Asbestosis is a serious lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, which cause lung tissue scarring and stiffness. This scarring makes it difficult for the lungs to expand and contract properly. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness and pain. These symptoms can worsen over time and lead to respiratory failure in severe cases. 

Asbestosis typically occurs after high exposure levels over an extended period. Workers in asbestos product manufacturing, construction, shipbuilding, and other industrial trades are most at risk. There is no cure for asbestosis, but quitting smoking and avoiding further asbestos exposure can help slow the disease’s progression.

Lung Cancer 

Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause genetic damage to lung cells, leading to uncontrolled cell growth and the development of lung cancer. The two main types associated with asbestos are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Lung cancer symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. 

The disease has a poor prognosis if not caught early. Asbestos exposure accounts for 3-4% of all lung cancer cases but a much higher percentage in workers exposed on the job. The risk of developing lung cancer is made worse by smoking. Quitting smoking and reducing further asbestos exposure are important for patients diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer.

Pleural Plaques

Pleura refers to the lining around the lungs. Prolonged asbestos exposure can cause the development of pleural plaques, which are areas of fibrous thickening or scarring on the pleural lining. 

The plaques themselves are not harmful, but they indicate asbestos exposure and increased risks of more serious diseases. Those with a history of occupational exposure should have regular screenings to check for plaques. Their presence means steps should be taken to prevent progression to asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer.

Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion is an abnormal buildup of fluid between the pleural lining and the lung. This is often caused by pleural plaques or pleural thickening restricting lung expansion. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and a dry cough. 

Mild effusion often causes no issues, but severe cases can compress the lungs or lead to infection. Doctors can remove the excess fluid through a procedure called thoracentesis. Asbestos exposure is a common cause of pleural effusions.

Pleural Thickening

Similar to pleural plaques, asbestos fibers can also cause thickening and scarring of the pleural lining. This restricts lung expansion and leads to breathing difficulties. Pleural thickening can also impair lung function over time, resulting in reduced oxygenation of the blood and a lower quality of life. 

Mild cases may cause a few issues, but severe pleural thickening can be disabling. There are no treatments to reverse the thickening, so quitting smoking and preventing further asbestos exposure is important.


Asbestos Warts

Asbestos warts are harmless skin growths triggered by asbestos exposure in susceptible people. They typically form on the fingers, hands, forearms, and male genitals. 

Asbestos warts tend to be painless and don’t pose a health risk. However, their presence indicates significant asbestos exposure, which could lead to lung conditions later on. Asbestos warts can be removed for cosmetic reasons but often return. They have no relation to HPV warts.

Gastrointestinal Cancer

Some research indicates asbestos exposure could potentially increase the risk of cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract. For example, studies have found higher rates of colorectal, stomach, and esophageal cancers in workers exposed to asbestos. However, more research is needed to establish a clear link. These types of cancers often develop decades after exposure. 

Symptoms depend on the location but may include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Reducing further asbestos exposure and getting regular cancer screenings are important for at-risk individuals.


In conclusion, asbestos exposure is associated with a number of diseases that can severely impact health and quality of life. These include asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, pleural abnormalities, and possibly gastrointestinal cancers. The risk generally rises with greater exposure levels and duration. Workers in construction, shipbuilding, manufacturing, and other industrial trades are at the highest risk.

There are often long latency periods before disease development. Therefore, those exposed to asbestos should have regular medical screenings to check for problems. They should also take precautions to avoid further exposure.

While asbestos health effects can’t be reversed, early detection and lifestyle changes can help slow their progression. At-risk individuals should be aware of the multitude of health risks linked to asbestos exposure.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button