How does asbestos harm you?
Exposure to asbestos has many harmful effects on the human body, and has been identified as the cause of diseases such as pleural plaques, asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Pleural plaques, or areas of fibrosis (the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue) in the ribcage and diaphragm, are the most common effect of asbestos exposure. Fortunately, pleural plaques cannot lead to cancer and often have no effect on an individual’s general well-being. In some cases, however, pleural plaques can lead to severe chest pain, and, when very extensive, can also restrict breathing.
Asbestosis is a more serious asbestos-linked disease. Although non-cancerous, it is a serious, chronic respiratory disease. Asbestosis is caused by inhaled asbestos fibers being lodged in the lungs, which causes scarring in lung tissue and decreased lung capacity. Its symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and a dry crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. In its advanced stages, asbestosis can also cause cardiac failure.
Exposure to asbestos can also lead to two different types of cancer. The more common type is lung cancer, which causes the largest number of asbestos-related deaths. The symptoms of lung cancer include coughing, a change in breathing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, chest pain, and anemia. Asbestos exposure can also lead to a very rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. Nearly all cases of mesothelioma are linked to asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma occurs in the membrane lining of the lungs, chest, and abdomen. Because the symptoms often take up to 30 or 40 years to appear, mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose. There are three types of mesothelioma, each of which has different symptoms, but symptoms generally include weight loss as well as pain and abnormal functioning in the affected area.