Understanding asbestosis and mesothelioma

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber but when disturbed can contribute to serious medical conditions including cancer.

Among the many trends seen in society today is the emphasis on products being natural. This is often used by marketers as a way of indicating to consumers in North Carolina some enhanced value of the product. However, the fact that something occurs inherently in nature does not always mean it is good or safe. Asbestos is a great example of this.

What is asbestos?

As explained by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is a fiber that occurs naturally in soils and rocks. Once heralded by many industries including the construction industry for its flame retardant and insular qualities, asbestos today may be more commonly associated with serious health conditions.

It should be noted that asbestos is not always dangerous. If left undisturbed, it may pose no risk to humans whatsoever. However, once the fibers are manipulated such as during a building renovation or demolition project, the risk to people is great.

What makes asbestos dangerous?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the fibers that can be released once asbestos is disturbed are extremely small. When inhaled, they can become caught in a person's lungs and they may also cause scar tissue to develop in the lungs. Scar tissue anywhere in or on the body is extremely tough and not pliable.

As the tissue in the lungs grows stiffer, a person's ability to breathe becomes compromised. Proper respiration requires the lungs to expand and contract, something that is difficult with scarred and stiff lung tissue.

What is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a disease characterized by these stiffened lungs due to the prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers. A person with this condition not only will have trouble breathing but may experience a chronic, non-productive cough and pain or a tight sensation through the chest.

What is mesothelioma?

WebMD notes that mesothelioma is a cancer of any internal organ lining but most prominently of the lining of the lungs. It is believed that roughly three out of four cases of mesothelioma are caused by asbestos exposure. Symptoms of this condition are similar to that of asbestosis but may also include fluid buildup in the lungs.

When do symptoms of these diseases become evident?

Another serious factor of asbestosis and mesothelioma is the fact that their symptoms are not generally seen for many years after the original exposure. It may be three, four or even five decades later before a person begins to exhibit symptoms of these diseases.

People who have had previous exposure to asbestos, even if many years before and who now experience respiratory problems should contact a lawyer to learn how they might seek help and potentially compensation.