Image source: SELİM ARDA ERYILMAZ
Asbestos used to be the go-to material for cement and floor tiles. This all changed in the 1970s, though, as the government began to place strict regulations on the use of asbestos and its products. The reason was due to surging cases of asbestos-related diseases, which also led to some fatalities.
Although less common today, the fact remains that a whopping 39,000+ Americans die of asbestos-related diseases every year. Over the years, we’ve seen cases of people developing asbestos-related diseases due to workplace practices and the sales of defective products. Legal firms like Belluck & Fox have helped victims seek justice for these unlawful acts.
What are Asbestos-Related Diseases
Asbestos-related diseases are infirmities caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. The fibers are microscopic; that is, they are tiny particles that can’t be seen. When an asbestos product gets damaged or distorted, these fibers become suspended in the air. If a person breathes in these particles, they could get stuck in the lungs and lead to health issues after accumulating over time.
As of today, there are four main asbestos-related diseases:
These diseases affect the pleura. The pleura are the outer linings of the lungs. There are two such layers for each lung: the visceral and parietal pleura.
Pleural plaques are small thick patches on the pleura. These scars can appear on either or both lungs and could be an early indicator of asbestos fiber inhalation. Although they don’t cause symptoms, they can undergo calcification and become hardened over time, leading to further problems.
Another condition that affects the pleura is pleural thickening, which is malignant. Unlike pleural plaques, the scars are more widespread and will most likely affect both outer layers of the lung(s). As a result, the lung(s) may experience difficulty expanding, causing breathing problems, and potentially, death.
This is a rare cancer, an uncontrolled proliferation (or growth) of the linings of the lungs or abdomen. As of October 2021, there are approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma in the United States, which represents just about 0.03% of all cancer diagnoses in the country.
The four known types of mesothelioma are pleural, testicular, peritoneal, and pericardial. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 75% of all mesothelioma cases. The only known cause of this disease is asbestos exposure.
Most people don’t know they have mesothelioma until after 20 to 50 years of asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, by this time, the tumors would have spread across the linings of the lungs or abdomen. At this stage, the life expectancy for a mesothelioma patient is 12 to 22 months. Factors like age, sex, and overall health, can also affect life expectancy.
Unlike mesothelioma, this condition is non-cancerous. Asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs that occurs when asbestos dust is inhaled. The people who are at a higher risk of developing this condition are construction workers.
Asbestosis can lead to difficulty breathing. When the body reacts to asbestos fiber inhalation, the lungs’ air sacs can be greatly affected. As a result, the bloodstream receives little to no oxygen.
Lung damage caused by asbestosis is irreversible and could lead to further problems. A person is more likely to develop lung cancer when plagued with asbestosis.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lung cancer was the leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths in 2019. And while it’s true that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer in the country, about 10 to 20% of lung cancer patients in the country have never smoked a day in their life.
Research has shown that other risk factors like exposure to asbestos fiber can also increase your chances of getting lung cancer.
Although there have been strict guidelines regulating the use of asbestos products in the United States, the truth remains that asbestos exposure can lead to harmful diseases.
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