Popularly utilized after World War II due to its heat and chemical resistance properties in industrial manufacturing of textiles, insulation, car parts, and fireproofing materials, asbestos has since been linked to a variety of cancers and harmful conditions.
Here are five conditions linked to asbestos exposure.
The most common condition associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer affecting the membrane (mesothelium) that covers the lungs and chest cavity, vital organs, and abdominal cavity. Signs and symptoms including difficulty breathing, fluid in the lungs, and shortness of breath may not appear until 30-40 years after exposure.
Exposure to asbestos may result in a number of cancers, including lung, laryngeal and ovarian. Because asbestos is typically inhaled, the lungs are the most at risk. Lung cancer symptoms may not present themselves until 15 or more years after initial exposure.
Exposure to asbestos also increases your chances for laryngeal cancer (cancer of the larynx) by 40 percent compared to those who aren't exposed to asbestos.
Women working in professions or settings with potential asbestos exposure have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, should the inhaled or ingested fibers travel to the ovaries.
Other cancers linked to asbestos exposure include: colorectal, stomach and pharynx.
This chronic lung disease is caused by inhaled asbestos fibers lodging in your alveoli, the tiny sacs in your lungs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. The fibers irritate and scar lung tissue causing the lungs to stiffen, thus making it harder to breathe. Other symptoms, which may not present themselves until 10-40 years after exposure, include chest tightness and pain, clubbing of fingers, and a persistent, dry cough.
Atelectasis is the partial or total collapse of your lung or area (lobe) of your lung. There are many types of atelectasis, though rounded atelectasis is most associated with asbestos exposure. This condition is where the lung tissue folds and sticks to the pleura. It can often be mistaken for lung cancer.
This is a fluid buildup between layers of the pleural membrane, located in the space that surrounds the lungs underneath the chest cavity. This buildup leads to a compression of the lung, causing shortness of breath. While effusions may develop independently of other diseases related to asbestos exposure, they are often a symptom of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers in their later stages.