Asbestos Exposure and Health

What are my risks of asbestos exposure?

We all face exposure to asbestos in the air we breathe, but this type of exposure is low-level, ranging from 0.00001 to 0.0001 fibers for every millimeter of air and usually these are highest in industrial areas and cities.

Individuals working in industries where asbestos products are manufactured or used or those who may be deployed at asbestos mining sites can face high levels of exposure to asbestos. People who may be living in areas adjoining these industries may also face high level of exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos fibers can get released into the air due to the disturbance of materials that contain asbestos. This can occur during product use, demolition activity, or building or home repair, renovation and remodeling. Usually, exposure occurs only in specific situations when asbestos-based materials are disturbed in such a way that it leads to the release of asbestos fibers and dust into the air.

Asbestos can be found in drinking water, and this may be due to asbestos coming from natural sources or via cement pipes that contain asbestos.

How will my health be affected due to asbestos?

In most cases, asbestos affects the lungs and also the membranes which surround the lungs. Inhaling asbestos fibers in large quantities over long periods can lead to the development of scar-like tissue in the lungs as well as in the pleural membrane (lining) that covers the lung. This disease is referred to as asbestosis and is normally prevalent amongst workers who were exposed to asbestos. However, it is not prevalent in the general population. Individuals diagnosed with asbestosis face breathing problems, usually have a cough, and in more serious cases, are detected with heart enlargement. Asbestosis is a critical disease and may eventually result in disability or death.

Inhaling asbestos fibers or dust in smaller proportions can lead to specific changes referred to as plaques in the pleural lining. This type of pleural plaques can be found amongst workers and sometimes in individuals who may be living in areas that have high levels of asbestos in the air. Breathing problems, if any, resulting from pleural plaques are generally not serious, but higher levels of exposure can result in the thickening of the pleural lining which may restrict breathing.