Asbestos is a dangerous, naturally occurring mineral that was once used in just about everything from cement sheets and wall paint to automotive parts and fire-resistant clothes. The mineral is well known for its heat resistance, strength, and resilience. That is one of the key reasons why it took until the mid-1980s for the EPA to greatly limit the use of asbestos to circumstances in which it is deemed nonfriable, such as in cement.
Today, it’s public knowledge that asbestos exposure is dangerous — the mineral has carcinogenic properties and exposure can lead to a variety of health issues. Nevertheless, even with decades of warnings and research into understanding the dangers of asbestos, people are still far from understanding the risks of asbestos exposure.
If you may have been exposed to asbestos, even when you were a child, speak to your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related diseases.
Diseases Associated with Asbestos Exposure
Some of the most common asbestos-related diseases follow:
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects or develops from the mesothelium, which is the thin outer layer covering a person’s internal organs, and mainly impacts the lungs and abdomen. It has been linked directly to asbestos inhalation and ingestion.
Asbestosis is a lung disease that develops as a result of severe or prolonged inhalation of asbestos and does not have a known cure. The condition is progressive, which means that it gets worse and harder to manage over time. Since asbestos-related diseases have a high latency, by the time the disease is detected, the condition is usually chronic.
- Pleural plaques.
Pleural plaques cause lung tissue to thicken. While the condition is not life-threatening, it is a significant risk factor for the development or acceleration of other, more dangerous respiratory problems.
- Other forms of cancer
Asbestos exposure is a known risk factor for the development of cancer in the respiratory and digestive tracts as well as in other areas of the body.
The Latency of Asbestos-related Diseases
The most significant danger posed by asbestos-related diseases is that symptoms have a very long latency period. That means that it typically takes a significant amount of time, roughly up to 30-50 years, before the symptoms of the disease manifest. By the time an individual realizes they are seriously sick, it may be too late to seek medical treatment.
Additionally, due to the latency, it becomes harder to prove that an illness is a direct result of asbestos exposure, making it difficult to seek compensation to cover medical costs.
Ultimately, the expense of regular screening is a more cost-effective option than the expenses associated with treatment further down the road. Therefore, it is necessary for those working with asbestos, as well as their families and friends who may have been exposed second-hand. to be on the lookout for the development of any concerning symptoms.
Asbestos causes cancer. Health researchers are learning how.
Studies show that asbestos fibers embed in the bodily tissue:
- Causing scarring
- Disrupting the body’s defense mechanisms
- Increasing formation of free-radicals (electrical charges known to increase the likelihood of cancer)
- Harming DNA that controls cellular growth, potentially leading to the formation of carcinomas (cancerous tumors)
Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
Ingesting the microscopic fibers that make up asbestos caused these fibers to become lodged in the body, eventually leading to numerous symptoms. Some common symptoms to be on the lookout for are those associated with the respiratory system or the digestive tract.
Respiratory symptoms may include:
- Chest pain and/or tightness
- Shortness of breath
- A dry, irritating cough
- Pleural plaques on C.T. scans or x-rays
- Fluid inside the lungs
Digestive symptoms may include:
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Severe loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal swelling
- Rounded or clubbed finger
“The overall evidence suggests there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.”
Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)1
Treatment of Asbestos-related Diseases
Due to the latency of symptoms, treatment can be both expensive and challenging. By the time a condition is detected and addressed medically, the patient is often at an advanced age, which makes the body more susceptible to weakness and further complications, and the conditions have almost always progressed into later stages.
Treatment options for asbestos exposure depends on the specific condition, its progression, and the overall health of the patient.
Some of treatment methods include:
- Surgery. Surgery is often the go-to method in the removal of tumors or affected tissue when the condition is in its earliest stages. However, even then, successful surgery depends on the location of the ailment and whether there is any likelihood of the condition spreading and impacting other parts of the body.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves injecting the patient with a targeted cocktail of medications, such as cisplatin and pemetrexed, to target and kill cancer cells. This is an option for patients whose age isn’t too advanced as chemotherapy typically suppresses the immune system and could lead to secondary infection.
- Radiation therapy. This form of therapy targets cancer cells using radiation to degrade or destroy the tumors. Radiation therapy can be used as the primary treatment if a type of cancer is localized and not too advanced, as a precursor for surgery to shrink cancer tumors, after surgery to remove any remaining cancer cells, in conjunction with chemotherapy for greater effect, or to simply reduce symptoms to make the patient more comfortable if their cancer is too advanced for further treatment.
- Tumor treating fields. T.T.F.s involve the usage of alternating electrical fields to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and these are often used in conjunction with other treatment methods.
- Virotherapy. Virotherapy involves introducing viruses and pathogens developed to target cancer cells and supplement the immune system. The challenge with this method (aside from its high cost) is that it requires extensive screening to guarantee that the virus doesn’t affect anything other than the cancer it’s targeting. The treatment is also still primarily experimental.
- Gene therapy. Gene therapy is also an experimental treatment that involves introducing aggressive anti-cancer cells into the patient’s body.
- Experimental medications. With the increased media focus on asbestos exposure, pharmaceutical companies are taking notice and developing medications for asbestos-related conditions. Opdivo and Yervoy are two such experimental drugs that are still pending FDA approval.
“Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after exposure.”
Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)2
Smoking, Asbestos Exposure, and Synergy
Data shows that smokers are 10% more susceptible to developing lung cancer while asbestos exposure makes an individual 5% more susceptible to developing lung cancer. However, both smoking and asbestos exposure have a synergistic effect which increases the chances of developing cancer by up to 50%. Anyone who is in direct contact with asbestos should consider quitting smoking or taking extreme precautions to limit asbestos exposure.
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Second-hand and Tertiary Exposure
Second-hand and third-hand or tertiary exposure is yet another risk that one must consider. In one study, data showed that 1 in 5 cases were caused by second-hand exposure. This occurs when an individual who is exposed firsthand inadvertently brings asbestos fibers into their environment – usually into their home. For instance, asbestos workers could bring asbestos dust in their clothes, which would increase the likelihood of their families also being exposed.
The Bottom Line: Asbestos exposure is dangerous
If you believe you were exposed to asbestos, speak to a healthcare professional about medical tests for asbestos scarring and asbestos-related diseases.
The consequences of asbestos exposure are extensive, especially when one considers the amplified risks associated with smoking and exposure. Symptom latency also makes it very difficult to detect asbestos-related diseases before they are well-progressed and can make it hard to get compensation for asbestos injuries.
That is why it’s important for those who work with asbestos to periodically screen for asbestos-related conditions. It’s also important to work with a competent and experienced asbestos lawyer if seeking legal action. The team at AsbestosClaims.law can help ensure those who’ve been injured receive the funds they deserve to cover medical expenses and live as comfortably as possible during such a difficult time.
For Justinian C. Lane, getting compensation for asbestos victims is personal.
Justinian’s grandparents and his father all worked with asbestos in their younger years and died from asbestos-related cancers in their later years.
At the time of each of their deaths, no one in Justinian’s family knew that they were eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit and to seek compensation from the asbestos trusts.
Because no one in Justinian’s family knew their options, they never received any compensation for the death of their loved ones.
If you believe that you or your family member’s injury was related to asbestos exposure, you could be entitled to significant compensation.
This is money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being.
There are also asbestos trusts that offer compensation much more quickly and easily (without filing a lawsuit.)
If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.
In addition to legal claims, veterans disability, social security and employment protection like workers compensation, FELA and The Jones Act for maritime workers, there are asbestos trusts that have been set up to compensate those harmed by asbestos without having to file a lawsuit.
There is no risk or cost to speak with one of our staff about your asbestos litigation. There are no fees unless you receive money.
If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information about compensation for asbestos injuries.
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W.A.R.D., which stands for the Worldwide Asbestos Research Database, helps clients to narrow down when and where they may have been exposed, as well as which products may still contain asbestos. W.A.R.D. will also help indicate compensation types and how much a person may be entitled to.
Scholarly Reference: Nico van Zandwijk, Glen Reid & Arthur L. Frank (2020) Asbestos-related cancers: the ‘Hidden Killer’ remains a global threat, Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy, 20:4, 271-278, DOI:10.1080/14737140.2020.1745067
1 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.
2 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.