Many people have heard of asbestos, but not everyone fully understands what it is and what the health ramifications can be. People with long-term exposure are at risk of developing chronic and serious health conditions.
According to WebMD, asbestos refers to a group of minerals that form fine fibers when crystallized. Because of their make up, a wide variety of industries use them for different purposes. However, when broken, these thin fibers move easily to the lungs via breathing, and they build up over time.
Occupations with higher exposure to asbestos
Certain workers are at greater risk of asbestos exposure. These include construction, auto and textile workers. According to the Cleveland Clinic, other occupations and industries at greater risk include firefighters, milling, mining, shipbuilding, manufacturing and building demolition.
Asbestos-related health conditions
People exposed short term to asbestos have a low risk of developing health problems. However, those with long-term exposure are at risk of a variety of health conditions, which include:
- Lung cancer
- Pleural effusions
- Throat or gastrointestinal cancer
Factors that increase the risk of diseases from asbestos
Long-term exposure increases the chances of asbestos-related disease. Other factors include the intensity of exposure, smoking, genetic mutations, type of industry and pre-existing lung disease.
Signs of asbestos exposure
If you work in a high-risk industry, you may be wondering if you should worry about your health. Unfortunately, symptoms often do not show up for 10 to 40 years. Common signs and symptoms include a dry and persistent cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, crackling sounds upon inhalation, significant weight loss, bloody sputum and fatigue.
Symptoms often mimic other respiratory diseases. Unfortunately, there is no reversal of the effects of asbestos, but early treatment can prevent further complications.