Asbestos exposure is a risk for people in many occupations, including construction workers. As breathing in asbestos fibers can raise the risk of serious health conditions, including lung cancer and the serious lung condition known as mesothelioma, it’s important to recognize the immediate asbestos exposure symptoms. Here’s a quick run-down of everything you need to know.
What Is Asbestos?
Minerals that contain microscopic fibers are grouped together under the name asbestos. Through much of the 20th century, these materials were used in the construction of buildings, automobiles and many household appliances, as they’re good insulators and resistant to fire.
Who Is at Risk?
Construction workers, engineers, electricians and household appliance installers are all at risk of exposure to asbestos. People in these kinds of jobs can come into contact with asbestos when they work on old buildings. Cutting or breaking asbestos construction materials can release fibers into the air, leading to inhalation.
Types of Asbestos Exposure
- Occupational Asbestos Exposure: Workers in some industries, such as construction, are exposed to asbestos while doing their jobs.
- Secondary Asbestos Exposure: This is a risk for family members of blue-collar workers, who may bring fibers home on their clothes.
- Environmental Exposure: Some people are exposed to natural deposits of asbestos. These natural deposits mostly occur in parts of California and Montana and can be exposed by simple outdoor activities like gardening.
Asbestos Exposure Symptoms
Asbestos exposure can cause inflammation in the lungs, which leads to the following respiratory symptoms:
- Coughing, particularly with mucus
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Crackling sound in chest while inhaling
- Loss of appetite
Long Term Risks
People exposed to asbestos can develop lung cancer more than 15 years after first being exposed. Symptoms of lung cancer include wheezing, coughing, breathing problems, coughing up blood, chest pain, unintentional weight loss and anemia.
The other long-term risk of asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, which causes shortness of breath and chest pain. This rare cancer of the lung lining can develop 30 or more years after breathing in asbestos fibers.
If you have any symptoms listed above, see a doctor as soon as possible. Give your doctor as much information as possible about the time when you may have been exposed, so he or she can run tests to find out whether asbestos is causing your symptoms.