Due to the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases, symptoms begin to appear some fifteen to forty years after the patient’s exposure to asbestos. It is fortunate that the mineral is no longer widely used in the present-day, but those who were exposed to its elements decades ago maybe suffering its effects now or in the coming years.
Asbestos was mined and began to be used in the late 1800s and was a major component in various industries such as construction, automotive, shipping and manufacturing. In the field of construction, it was used to make insulation products as well as in strengthening plastic and cement. It was also useful for roofing, fireproofing and soundproofing. The auto industry made use of the mineral in producing clutch-plates and brake liners. Asbestos was used for boiler insulation and steam water pipes in the shipping industry. It was also used in the manufacturing field to make paints, adhesives and tiles.
Asbestos mineral occurs naturally as fibers that are thin and loose. It has two subgroups namely amphibole, which appear as straight and needle-like fibers, and chrysolite, which are typically used for commercial purposes. The mineral was widely used during the decades of the 40s until the 80s because of its significant features of resistance to chemicals, heat and fire, as well as its non-conduction of electricity.
Although the use of asbestos have greatly reduced, those who have been exposed years ago may not escape the risk of its poison. Those who have a high percentage of being poisoned by asbestos are the following:
- Those who worked in the construction industry that built and handled materials containing asbestos.
- Individuals who were directly responsible for the removal of asbestos-containing items.
- Workers who renovated buildings and houses.
- Shipyard employees assigned to renovate old ships.
- Shipyard crew who took charge of breaking down and demolishing ships for scrap purposes.
It should be noted that not only those who had direct contact with the asbestos fibers are at high risk. Those whom they come in close contact with, like family and friends, may have also been affected through the transfer of the particles embedded in the clothing or body of the workers. The fibers are very tiny and light; they can easily be transmitted to others.
Asbestos is responsible for three major health conditions namely, asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestosis occurs due to a large amount of accumulated asbestos in the lungs causing it to be scarred. Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, is a malignant disease affecting the thin membranes around the abdomen and the lungs. Lung cancer is a familiar form of illness which may also be caused by asbestos poisoning.
Symptoms of these diseases start to surface decades after the exposure actually took place. However, rare cases of severe illness may have the symptoms appear within months, like the sudden breathing difficulties and persistent coughing. Note these most common symptoms:
- breathing difficulties
- breathing sounds, such as crackling
- chronic, persistent coughs
- loss of appetite
- regular pains in the chest
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the neck and face
- unpredictable fevers and night sweats
- weight loss
If any of these symptoms start to appear, you should see a physician for proper medical advise. They may not necessarily mean you are afflicted with an asbestos-related sickness but early diagnosis will be very helpful. The doctor will recommend procedures to try to discover and establish the presence of asbestos in your body.