The health effects of asbestos exposure

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Guest editorial by  Faith Franz

It’s natural – therefore it’s good for you, right? When you’re referring to your food, that’s absolutely a good rule of thumb. However, not all natural substances support your health.

In the case of asbestos – a naturally occurring mineral – “natural” can still be extremely dangerous. This Class A carcinogen is found in mineral deposits all over the world, but its industrial use has caused hundreds of thousands of cancer cases and other serious diseases.

Most people who have developed asbestos-related diseases were exposed to the mineral in an industrial setting. Until the 1980s, asbestos was mined and refined for use as an insulating product. It was used in drywall, ceiling and flooring tiles, adhesives, caulking and many other products that were common in blue-collar worksites.  This type of asbestos use accounts for most asbestos exposure.

Asbestos exposure can also occur in an environmental setting.  Because the mineral is found in natural deposits across the world (including in states like North Carolina), anyone who disturbs asbestos in the soil risks inhaling the fibers. Many people are unknowingly exposed to asbestos when they are in asbestos-laden areas.

Asbestos exposure can cause a number of serious illnesses, including cancer.  Mesothelioma is the primary asbestos-related cancer, and it can develop in the lining of the lungs, stomach or heart. This cancer is diagnosed in as many as 3,000 Americans a year and has a very low life expectancy. Broadly speaking, most mesothelioma patients are older males – mostly because exposure traditionally occurred on job sites. During the course of the diseases, patients often experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, a dry cough and persistent fatigue.

Some therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, can be used to help relieve these symptoms and improve a patient’s quality of life, but the average prognosis for a mesothelioma patient is less than a year from the time of diagnosis. Workers exposed to asbestos, should consider signing up for health screenings for asbestos-related diseases.  Read More.

Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.  

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