Why does asbestos cause disease?

Jan 31, 2020 | Asbestos-related Diseases

You may have heard about the serious health problems workers suffer after contact with asbestos. However, you might not understand why asbestos causes disease in the first place. A major issue with asbestos is that workers cannot see it to avoid exposure. Since asbestos lies in construction materials, some workplaces may constantly expose their workers to asbestos until it creates serious and irreversible health problems.

Medline Plus explains that people contract asbestos-caused diseases by breathing in asbestos fibers. Usually, asbestos is not airborne until something happens to disrupt and dislodge the asbestos from the solid material it resides in. Asbestos fibers are too small for people to see them, so people cannot avoid them if they are in the surrounding air. The small size of asbestos fibers makes them easy to inhale.

A momentary exposure to asbestos usually does not create any problems. But inhaling asbestos fibers over a period of time may cause a buildup of these fibers in the lungs, which can create major problems. Asbestos fibers can inflame the lungs, causing problems with breathing. Asbestos fibers can also scar the lungs, a condition commonly known as Asbestosis. In time, this condition can permanently disable a person and even lead to death.

Asbestos can also lead to cancer. People who breathe in asbestos over time may develop lung cancer. They might also develop a rare form of cancer known as Mesothelioma. This kind of cancer affects the thin lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma can also manifest in the stomach or the chest. Certain factors, like smoking cigarettes, may also exacerbate the development of Mesothelioma or other lung diseases.

The hazards posed by asbestos are now well known, and the federal government regulates its use. The tragedy of asbestos-related diseases lies in the fact that they are preventable ailments. Workplaces should do all they can to shield their workers from dangerous asbestos exposure.