Health Effects of Asbestos – Part 2

Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs and sometimes the peritoneum. Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause for mesothelioma. Diagnosis generally occurs at least 30 years following the first exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma leads to a build up of fluid in the pleural cavity or peritoneum. In the pleural cavity the fluid leads to shortness of breath and chest pain. In the peritoneum, there may be swelling and pain, and even bowel obstruction, anemia, and fever. All of these symptoms are common to other diseases as well, so it is important to inform the physician of asbestos exposure.

Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos is a part of the natural environment, and is present in ambient air and water. Concentrations in ambient air range from 1×10-5 to 1×10-4. People are more likely to experience asbestos-related disorders when they are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos, are exposed for longer periods of time, and/or are exposed more often. Disease may result with exposures for 40 years to concentrations of 0.125 – 30 fibers/ml. Inhaling longer, more durable asbestos fibers (such as tremolite and other amphiboles) probably contributes both to the risk and severity of asbestos-related illness.

Disease-causing exposures occur primarily in asbestos miners and in industrial workers that routinely handle asbestos. Asbestos remediators may also be at risk. Building occupants are unlikely to be sufficiently exposed to lead to illness. However, mesothelioma has been diagnosed in family members of asbestos miners, and residents who live close to asbestos mines.

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About the author: Joe Fiorilli