Asbestosis, developed from inhaling asbestos fibers, is a serious breathing disorder that may lead to lung tissue damage and shortened breath. The root cause of asbestosis in many people, particularly those in the construction industry, stemmed from the use of asbestos in flooring and insulation materials. In the 1970s, the government began to regulate asbestos use, and it is now considered a highly dangerous substance with very few modern residential, commercial or industrial uses.
One challenge of asbestosis is that symptoms are often invisible for up to 50 years. They may increase gradually even after individuals have stopped working with asbestos and often include shortened breath, coughing, chest pain and clubbing of fingers. If any of these symptoms persist, individuals are recommended to seek a doctor’s attention immediately for treatment.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance that can even cause serious harm in small amounts. Some of the people who become sick from asbestosis are those who work in construction with the material, miners who mine the material, workers in buildings that contain asbestos or individuals who live in areas of heavy asbestos mining.
While the government now regulates the substance in new construction, many old buildings still have asbestos insulation in the walls. These pre-1970s buildings may not have had costly asbestos-removal procedures done due to lack of funds or desire from companies or individuals. While asbestos is dangerous to have in your living or working space, it is important that an individual does not try to remove the asbestos themselves. One should call a professional to ensure that the asbestos is removed safely and completely.
Depending on how long an individual has worked or lived in an area of high levels of asbestos, symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe. The longer the exposure, the more severe the effects of asbestosis may be. For some, these symptoms can be permanently disabling or fatal, while for others, the symptoms are barely noticeable.
Smoking, which damages the lungs, increases the risk of contracting cancer as well as the severity of asbestosis symptoms. High blood pressure in the lungs, also known as pulmonary hypertension, may lead to more severe symptoms as well. Any lung diseases, damage or stress may exacerbate asbestosis symptoms due to already weakened lung tissue.
If a person has stopped working with or around asbestos, symptoms of asbestosis generally won't get any worse. However, they may take some time to show themselves. It is not uncommon for someone who has spent his 20s working with asbestos to contract noticeable symptoms up into his 70s. Therefore, if symptoms start to show, patients should contact a doctor immediately.