Asbestos Cancer – Health Effects

Asbestos Cancer – Health Effects

Asbestos cancer could occur in the throat, as in the larynx or oropharynx, gastrointestinal tract or the kidneys. It could arise as lung cancer or it could become mesothelioma.

Exposure to airborne particles of asbestos seems to cause most of the asbestos-related illnesses. The asbestos cancer related diseases that can be caused by breathing asbestos particles include:

Asbestosis – This is a lung disease that was first noticed in shipyard workers who were exposed to asbestos. When asbestos fibers are inhaled and embedded in lung tissue, the reaction of the body is to produce an acid that is intended to destroy the fibers. Instead, because asbestos is resistant to any kind of chemical damage, the lungs become damaged instead, and it forms scar tissue. Eventually, the scarring can become so severe that the lungs cannot function at all. It can take 25-40 years for this disease to develop after exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma – Cancer of the mesothelium, either around the lungs or in the lining of the abdomen. This also usually takes decades to develop after exposure.

Lung cancer – The risk of getting lung cancer from asbestos exposure is much higher (50% greater) if you also smoke. This is a much greater risk than simply adding together the incidence of lung cancer from asbestos and lung cancer from smoking, so the effects of one seem to enhance the effects of the other.

Gastrointestinal cancer – Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract can also be caused by asbestos exposure, perhaps by swallowing the airborne particles instead of breathing them in.
Many times, exposure to asbestos is linked to a place of work, like in a factory that makes products that contain asbestos, or in a job where the worker uses products that contain asbestos. Some exposure is environmental, instead.

Water can be contaminated with asbestos from the erosion of mineral deposits in the ground, or the breakdown of materials that contain asbestos outdoors; for example, if an asbestos-cement pipe erodes, asbestos can leach into groundwater; or asbestos-containing insulation can break down and the fibers carried into storm sewers with the next rain.

Asbestos can also be a problem for the occupants of a building. If the materials used in the interior of the building break down or become friable, any occupants of the building could be exposed to asbestos fibers in the air.

It is not known how much exposure to asbestos is necessary to cause serious asbestos cancer health problems, although OSHA has set a limit on exposure to an average 0.2 fibers per cubic centimeter of air during an eight-hour shift.

Asbestos” The Environmental Protection Agency web site,

“Better Protection Against Asbestos in the Workplace” The US Department of Labor web site,

Asbestos tissue burden study on human malignant mesothelioma” NCBI web site

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