Statistics indicate that asbestos causes 12,000-15,000 deaths in the United States each year. Sadly, some 27 million American employees were exposed to asbestos during the ‘40s to the ‘80s because they were unaware of the dangers.
Even today – unfortunately – 1.3 million workers are exposed to asbestos even five decades after the threats of this material were discovered. It’s present in 30 million American households today.
It also contaminates consumer products ranging from makeup to children’s toys. What happens after any long-term asbestos exposure to people? We’ve attempted to explain some significant chronic ailments caused by asbestos you should know about.
Some major asbestos-caused diseases
What’s asbestos? It’s a group of six natural mineral fibers that are heat-resistant and nonflammable. We have seen asbestos being used in the construction industry to insulate and fireproof any building.
It’s also used in strengthening cement and plastics. Moreover, these fibers are gray, blue, white, green, or green in color. However, American houses mostly have white fibers known as chrysotile.
When you inhale these fibers, they get trapped inside your lungs and cause problems with breathing. It’s been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing element). Now, what kind of illnesses are caused by asbestos? Here are a few diseases you may get from inhaling this material:
Some 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States every year. An average patient survives 12-21 months after their initial diagnosis. So, what causes mesothelioma?
It’s caused by asbestos fibers affecting the mesothelium tissues (the covering of your internal organs). It has many types, including pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. You may learn more about the pleural version, its symptoms, and possible treatment options by searching online.
There’s no cure available for this rare form of cancer. However, some life-extending procedures such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are available. So, they can help patients who suffer from pleural mesothelioma.
2. Interstitial fibrosis
Interstitial fibrosis (IF) consists of several diseases that cause scarring (fibrosis) in a person’s lungs. A person exposed to asbestos may develop IF that causes breathing problems and doesn’t allow them to inhale enough oxygen.
Also known as ILDs (interstitial lung diseases), these chronic ailments can damage your lungs beyond repair. Its symptoms include a dry cough and shortness of breath. So, some 200+ chronic illnesses come under the umbrella term IF today, and one of them is asbestosis.
Asbestos also causes a non-cancerous chronic condition called asbestosis when a person’s exposed to this mineral for a long time. Its symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, weight loss, and different indicators.
When asbestos microfibrils are trapped inside your lungs, they cause scarring. There’s no cure available for this ailment, and it can become deadlier if left unchecked. These fibers may stiffen a person’s lungs, suffocating them from oxygen deprivation.
4. Pleural plaques
This disease is developed 10-30 years after asbestos exposure and is usually benign. Patients mostly don’t damage their lungs permanently by contracting this ailment and survive for years without any severe health issues. There aren’t any prominent symptoms of this disease either.
When asbestos enters your body, it triggers the immune system and the buildup of collagen (a sort of protein) in your lungs. Pleural plaques rarely lead to anything serious, like causing any form of cancer.
5. Pleural effusions
Pleural effusions happen because of excessive fluid buildup between the pleura outside the lungs. It’s caused by several factors, one of which is asbestos. Its symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, and orthopnea (in which you can’t breathe easily unless you’re sitting/standing erect).
It’s treatable by inserting a needle for draining the fluid. Without this treatment, the fluid may become infected and lead to death. In layman’s terms, this disease is known as “water in the lungs” as well.
6. Ovarian cancer
A British survey shows that 3% of all cancer deaths among women are caused by ovarian cancer. According to the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), asbestos exposure also leads to ovarian cancer. It’s also one of the deadliest forms of cancer females can acquire.
7. Laryngeal cancer
It happens when asbestos fibers get trapped inside your larynx and cause cancer. Besides drinking or smoking excessively, it’s caused by several other factors as well. The symptoms include ear pain and sore throat. This ailment is treated by radiation and chemotherapy, among different other options.
8. Lung cancer
Lung cancer’s one of the most common forms of cancer in the world today. It killed 150,000+ Americans in 2017 and requires treatment options, e.g., surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
Its reasons also include asbestos exposure. So, asbestos-caused lung cancer reduces a person’s life expectancy to just 16.2 months. Along with asbestosis and mesothelioma, lung cancer remains a significant threat from asbestos exposure today. So, checking your home for asbestos has become crucial for you.
9. Bile duct cancer
Bile duct cancer’s also caused by asbestos exposure. Your bile connects your liver to your gallbladder as well as your small intestine. It provides the necessary enzymes for digestion. Asbestos fibers can get trapped inside ducts that are just thin tubes carrying bile fluid. Research has shown that many patients acquire bile duct cancer by inhaling asbestos. Many employees, as well as many homeowners, may become exposed to asbestos.
This chronic ailment happens when the lung (or one lobe) collapses partially or completely. Many patients who’ve undergone surgery may experience this condition. This ailment is not always caused by asbestos.
However, some of its forms – asbestos pseudotumor and Blesovsky syndrome – can be asbestos-associated. It may also look like cancer, so doctors often run tests to differentiate between this benign disease and asbestos-caused cancer. Some more illnesses caused by asbestos are like:
- Colon cancer
We’ve explained how asbestos murders thousands of Americans annually. However, surveys show that just 7% of American homeowners have checked their residences for asbestos. Also, one-fourth of the people here don’t know if their dwellings contain this dangerous material.
This mineral may lead to several chronic ailments since it’s a well-known carcinogen banned by the EPA since the late ‘80s. Asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma are some of the most common diseases caused by this mineral.
Moreover, people may contract atelectasis, pleural plaques/effusions, or ovarian, bile duct, or laryngeal cancer from asbestos exposure. That’s why it’s essential to boost your health literacy and take steps to live an asbestos-free life now.