What happens when someone is exposed to asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos may cause extreme illness and even death, which is why it is important for people to know how it happens and what the signs are.

Asbestos exposure is highly dangerous. People in North Carolina may experience a range of complications such as the following:

  • Lung cancer
  • Asbestosis
  • Mesothelioma
  • Chest cavity abnormalities
  • Laryngitis

Asbestos may take a toll on someone's immune system as well. It is important to understand what the substance is, where it may be found and that the signs are that someone is suffering due to exposure.

Finding asbestos

Believe it or not, asbestos is actually a naturally occurring mineral. There are six types of asbestos, each of which is resistant to fire and heat. Because of this property, many manufacturers used asbestos in building materials, protective gear and other products.

Starting in 1973, the U.S. government began banning products containing asbestos. Now, most items that have the substance are banned, though the Environmental Protection Agency points out that certain products, such as millboard, automotive components and some building materials may still contain it.

How exposure happens

Asbestos could be present anywhere, including in the home. The Mesothelioma Center notes that the most common cause of asbestos-related disease is exposure in the workplace. Plumbers, firefighters, auto mechanics, carpenters, roofers and factory workers are at an increased risk of coming across the substance in their lines of work. Military members are extremely vulnerable, as the military formerly depended on products that used asbestos.

Some people exposed to asbestos for an extremely short period of time may have little to no consequences. However, there is no such thing as a "safe" exposure. What happens is, people unknowingly inhale fibers that are microscopic. Those fibers become embedded in the linings surrounding the lungs. This is where problems begin.

Symptoms of exposure

Once those fibers are embedded, breathing will become difficult. Eventually, there may be scarring around the lungs, which in turn leads to cancer. It is extremely unfortunate that it may be decades after the exposure before someone experiences the symptoms of asbestos exposure.

Someone who has been exposed to the substance may experience tightness in the chest, chest pain, a persistent and dry cough, enlarged fingertips and shortness of breath. It is also possible to have pain around the belly, constipation and fatigue.

Thousands affected

The Mesothelioma Center estimates that as many as 3,000 Americans receive a mesothelioma diagnosis every year. Even worse, roughly 10,000 fatalities across the country every year are due to an asbestos-related disease.

It is possible for victims to seek legal recourse upon suffering the effects of asbestos exposure. In North Carolina, people have three years from the date they were diagnosed or two years from the date of a fatality to file a lawsuit. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney.