How Asbestos Exposure Can Affect Your Health
The disastrous effects of asbestos in the lives of many hardworking Americans is no secret. Many Americans were exposed to this dangerous substance well into the early 80s, even though its dangerous side effects had been detected years before.
But not everyone who had substantial contact with asbestos developed the same health problems.
The national asbestos lawyers at Hotze Runkle want you to obtain the justice you deserve if you have suffered an illness caused by asbestos exposure. We wholly believe that the more you understand about this dangerous substance, the better a decision you can make when it comes to filing a claim against the party responsible for your illness.
Please consider the following information about how asbestos can affect your health.
What are the chances I am suffering from asbestos exposure?
Between 1940 and 1978, 11 million American were exposed to asbestos in one form or another. In the decades that followed, the true damages of asbestos were to be felt.
Between 1999 and 2015, there were 54,418 documented cases of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Additionally, there were 45,009 deaths from mesothelioma reported during that same time frame.
Perhaps most alarmingly is that 20 million people in the United States are estimated to be at risk for developing mesothelioma at some point in their lives.
The risk of developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, depends on a number of factors, including:
- The amount of asbestos that was in the environment you were exposed in.
- How often and for how long the exposure occurred.
- How long the exposure lasted.
- Previous lung conditions.
- Whether or not you smoked.
If you were exposed to asbestos fibers over a long period of time, there are several illnesses you could potentially develop. These include but are not limited to:
Asbestosis is lung scarring due to asbestos fibers. Because of the scar tissue in the lungs, oxygen and carbon dioxide cannot pass as easily through the system, making it much hard for a sufferer to breathe.
This generally occurs in people with very high exposure and can take years to develop detectable symptoms.
- Pleural Effects
Asbestos fibers in the lungs can also cause a variety of abnormalities in the lining of the chest cavity, known as pleura:
- Pleural plaques: abnormal collagen deposits
- Pleural effusion: fluid in the lining
- Fibrosis of the pleura
- Folded lung: an area of pleural fibrosis folds into itself creating an airless space in the lung
These pleural abnormalities can be found in 10-60% of the workers exposed to asbestos.
They are also common in their family members, possibly due to asbestos fibers being carried in the workers’ clothes.
- Laryngeal Effects
In uncommon cases, individuals who have been exposed to asbestos have been shown to have an increased risk of suffering from laryngitis.
- Immune System Issues
The immune system is often weakened in individuals with asbestosis. It is still not clear if this decrease is the cause or a result of asbestosis. In individuals exposed to asbestos but who do not suffer from asbestosis, mild to no decrease of the immune system has been detected.
- Lung Cancer
These malignant tumors can take over and obstructs air passages in the lungs. Smoking tobacco, combined with asbestos exposure, dramatically increases the chance of developing lung cancer.
It normally takes about 20 to 30 years after the exposure (latency period) before developing lung cancer. While lung cancer is commonly associated with long periods of asbestos exposures, there have been cases where individuals with one to 12 months of exposure exhibit a greatly increased risk of developing the illness.
A rare form of cancer which affects the membrane covering the lungs and chest cavity (pleura), the membrane lining the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), or other membranes surrounding other major organs.
It can take up to 30 to 40 years after an individual has been exposed to asbestos before mesothelioma symptoms become evident.
- Other Forms of Cancer
Asbestos exposure is mainly known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. However, asbestos exposure can also cause larynx or ovary cancer.
If You Believe You Were Exposed to Asbestos
If you are concerned about possibly having been exposed to asbestos, visit your doctor or medical provider as soon as possible. Depending on your medical history and the details of your experiences, your doctor may conduct testing.