Symptoms Of Asbestos Exposure

We are all exposed to low levels of asbestos in the air we breathe. These levels range from 0.00001 to 0.0001 fibers per milliliter of air and generally are higher in cities and industrial areas.

It is known that breathing asbestos can increase the risk of cancer in humans. There are two types of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos: lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membranes surrounding the lungs (pleura) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). Asbestos cancer does not develop immediately, but that looks after a number of years. Studies of workers also suggest that breathing asbestos can increase chances of getting cancer in other parts of the body (stomach, intestines, esophagus, pancreas and kidneys), but this is less secure. Early identification and treatment of any cancer can increase the quality of life of individuals and survival.

People working in industries that manufacture or use asbestos products or who work in asbestos mining may be exposed to high levels of asbestos. People living near these industries may also be exposed to high levels of asbestos in the air.

Asbestos fibers can be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building maintenance or home repair and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the material containing asbestos is disturbed in any way to release particles and fibers into the air.


Asbestos mainly affects the lungs and the membrane surrounding the lungs. Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can cause long injuries that scar the lungs and pleura (lining) that surrounds the lung. This disease is called asbestosis and is usually found in workers exposed to asbestos, but not the general public. People with asbestosis have difficulty breathing, coughing frequently, and in severe cases enlargement of the heart. Asbestosis is a serious disease that can eventually lead to disability and death.

Breathing lower levels of asbestos can result in changes called plaques in the pleural membranes. Pleural plaques can occur in workers and sometimes in people living in areas with high ambient levels of asbestos. Effects on breathing from pleural plaques alone are not serious, but higher exposure can lead to thickening of the pleura which may restrict breathing.

Low levels of asbestos fibers can be measured in urine, feces, mucus, or lung washings of the general population. Above the average of the asbestos fibers in tissue can confirm exposure but not determine whether you will experience health effects.

A complete history, physical examination and diagnostic tests are needed to assess asbestos-related disease. Chest radiographs are the best screening tool to identify lung changes resulting from exposure to asbestos. Pulmonary function tests and CT scans also help in the diagnosis of asbestos-related disease.