More than 3,000 people a year in the U.S. are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural lining of the lungs or abdomen caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, it can take twenty years or more to diagnose as asbestos slowly damages the lungs. In this post, we'll discuss asbestos and what can happen when someone inhales asbestos.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral once commonly used in construction materials and clothing as a fire retardant. Asbestos exposure can cause cancer if inhaled or ingested. The United States has heavily regulated the use of asbestos since 1971, knowing that asbestos can cause cancer. However, many people are still exposed to asbestos while working in construction and maintenance as brake mechanics or firefighters, or in shipyards or industrial plants. Manufacturers still use asbestos in some products, like brake linings, and asbestos remains in many buildings. As a result, even after decades of asbestos regulation, more than 45,000 people died from mesothelioma between 1999 and 2015.
Asbestos in the Lungs
When asbestos fibers are disturbed through renovation, demolition, or fire, the lightweight fibers can travel through the air or water, where workers can inadvertently inhale or ingest them. Once in the body, asbestos becomes lodged in the lungs' alveoli or the pleural lining of the lungs and abdomen.
Alveoli are tiny air sacs in the lungs where the body exchanges carbon dioxide and oxygen during the breathing process. Asbestos fibers lodged in the lungs' alveoli can cause scarring, which causes the lung tissue to become
more rigid over time, making breathing difficult. In the meantime, asbestos fibers remain in your body, silently causing more and more damage.
This asbestos-caused lung damage can lead to asbestosis, a chronic lung disease characterized by shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough, loss of appetite and weight loss, and chest pain or tightness. This damage is irreversible. As asbestosis progresses, the lungs become more scarred, breathing becomes more difficult because the lungs no longer have the flexibility needed for complete function. While asbestosis is non-cancerous, the damage can lead to lung cancer.
Asbestos exposure can also lead to malignant mesothelioma when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested and lodge in the pleura or peritoneum. The pleura is the lining of the lungs and the peritoneum in the abdominal cavity lining. While the symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to asbestosis, mesothelioma is a form of cancer. Mesothelioma's symptoms become more pronounced over time.
Asbestos can also cause cancer of the lungs, larynx, and ovaries, in addition to mesothelioma. However, asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Even small amounts of asbestos exposure can lead to health issues, although prolonged exposure is more dangerous. It can take decades to diagnose mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers because the damage happens so gradually. But if you're experiencing symptoms, you should see your doctor right away.
Call the Cheek Law Firm
If you have mesothelioma, asbestosis, or another asbestos-related cancer, you may be entitled to compensation. Give the Cheek Law Firm a call today to set up a free consultation to discuss your options. Contact us at 504-304-4333 or online.