The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
Every single day, people are exposed to asbestos. The deadly substance can be found throughout homes, public buildings, schools and job sites.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that became popular during the Industrial Revolution. As an excellent insulator, it was added to a variety of products from automobiles and steam engines to cement and roofing materials.
As the mineral gained popularity and more uses were found, the number of people diagnosed with lung issues also grew.
Since the late 1890s, there is much documentation about the dangers of asbestos exposure. Around 1897, an Austrian doctor attributed his patient’s pulmonary issues to the inhalation of the deadly dust, and in 1906, the first asbestos-related death was documented. Despite the growing health concerns surrounding the substance, the industry could not be stopped.
Although exposure had been definitively linked to mesothelioma and several other debilitating conditions, the government failed to limit its use until the 1970s. As a result, millions of unsuspecting people continue to be in the presence of asbestos every day.
Children and schoolteachers are at risk in older school buildings. Families may be in danger in their own homes. Workers in over 75 different occupational groups must worry whether asbestos will shorten their lives, according to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.
When undisturbed, the substance is not a major health concern. The problem arises when it is disturbed — by deterioration, damage or during a renovation — and microscopic fibers are released into the air. As millions of these particles float in a room, people are likely to inhale or ingest the fibers, which then become lodged in the lining of their lungs or abdomen.
Over time, the lodged fibers can cause a variety of conditions, including lung scarring, pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. These conditions are more likely if someone has been around the toxic mineral for a long period of time. While any kind of exposure is dangerous, it is more likely for someone who spent hours around the deadly fiber to develop an asbestos-related condition than someone who was only exposed once.
Perhaps the scariest part of asbestos-related conditions is their unusually long latency period. Most common with mesothelioma, it typically takes 20-50 years for the cancer to develop after someone was initially exposed. It’s important for anyone who thinks they may have a history of exposure to tell their primary care physician right away. Getting diagnosed and finding cancer treatment early on could make all the difference in the world.
Try not to underestimate any possible exposure. By making sure your doctor is aware of your history, together you can monitor for any mesothelioma-related symptoms.
Even today, the dangerous substance is still not banned in the United States. Tucked away in insulation or added for fireproofing, the toxic mineral can be hiding in the places you’d least expect. As a result, our loved ones are at risk for developing mesothelioma or lung cancer from exposure. People deserve better.
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