Industrial sites, such as power plants, oil refineries, construction works, shipyards, mechanic shops, and many more, make use of the material called asbestos due to its variety of uses.
Asbestos is the term used when describing a specific group of minerals containing magnesium-silicate fibers. Coined as “the magic mineral,” it possesses a natural fire-resistant property making it ideal for flooring, roofing, and thermal insulation.
However, the advantages of asbestos usage come with the dangers of being exposed to this material. Inhaling asbestos particles result in health conditions that can be life-threatening.
Here are some of the harmful effects of short-term and long-term asbestos exposure:
Due to the severity of asbestos usage, specific chronic lung disease has been named when an individual inhaled asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is characterized by scarring of the lung tissues and shortness of breath.
Symptoms associated with asbestosis don’t quickly show, that’s why people who have long-term and continued asbestos exposure only recognize the symptoms from 10 to 40 years since the first encounter.
As scar and inflamed tissues develop in your lung’s air sacs, the air sacs struggle with filling the lungs with fresh air, thus progressively making it harder for an individual to breathe. Stiffness develops in the lungs, causing discomfort and extreme coughing. Due to the stiffness, less oxygen will also be delivered to the blood.
When asbestos usage was still unregulated in the 1970s, individuals suffering from Asbestosis acquired the disease because of their jobs. Today, asbestos handling is strictly regulated in workplaces. Nevertheless, you’re still at risk of developing asbestosis if your employer doesn’t follow specific safety procedures.
Still, even at the comfort of your own home, there’s a possibility that you might develop asbestosis due to short-term exposure. Since asbestos is largely utilized in roofing, floorings, electrical systems, and insulation systems, asbestos particles can be released in the air once a product containing asbestos is disturbed.
Having almost the same symptoms with asbestosis, an asbestos-linked cancer known as Mesothelioma happens when malignant tumor caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers accumulates in the linings of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. Mesothelioma is an incurable disease, with a life expectancy of roughly 12 months after diagnosis. Professionals utilize a series of tests to confirm Mesothelioma, such as biopsies, imaging scans, blood tests, and further staging.
The most common symptoms of Mesothelioma start to show once the tumor has spread and grown along the chest wall and abdominal cavity, which causes shortness of breath and chest pain. Individuals with Mesothelioma will also experience night sweats, fever, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
Since Mesothelioma is incurable, treatment can only increase their life expectancy and lower the severity of the tumor growth, but this is only applicable to patients with early diagnosis. Depending on how early it’s diagnosed and how much the tumor has grown, patients may or may not receive surgery, chemotherapy, clinical trials, and radiation therapies.
Aside from cancerous diseases that you can acquire from asbestos exposure, you’re also at risk of developing non-cancerous abnormalities along your pleural cavity. The thickening of the membrane surrounding the lungs can develop all over the lung’s surroundings (diffuse pleural thickening), fluid accumulation on the lungs (pleural effusion), or membrane thickening only in isolated areas (pleural plaques).
Generally, there are three types of asbestos minerals that can induce pleural diseases: crocidolite, amosite (straight fibers), and chrysotile (serpentine fibers). They’re increasingly common in household and engine structures, which poses dangers for families, that are found in ceilings, roofs, floors, pipe insulation, spray-on coatings, and more.
Immune System Defects
Inhalation of asbestos particles can also take a great toll on your immune system.
A healthy immune system can ward off tumor growth in cancer, and your immune system can contribute to stopping the spread of cancerous tumors caused by Mesothelioma. However, for individuals with prolonged exposure to asbestos particles, asbestos builds up on their lymph nodes and consequently affects the regulation of immune cells.
During asbestos exposure, it has been found out that natural and acquired cytotoxicity levels of cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells have decreased, making tumor growth more likely to progress. Furthermore, TH1 cells are hindered to activate and support anti-tumor growth during the accumulated inhalation of asbestos.
In some cases, an individual can compensate for detrimental immune system effects induced by asbestos by giving their immune system a boost. In this way, a stronger immune system can function more efficiently to fight off cancer.
Despite the amazing properties of asbestos and its applications in industrial technology, the health of industrial workers is put into a compromise. Fine particles of asbestos can barely become noticeable with the naked eye, making it hard for patients to identify if they’ve been extremely exposed to such particles.
Through constant medical check-ups, especially for industrial workers, they might detect these harmful health effects discussed above to immediately prevent worse conditions and deliver early treatment.