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What you need to know about asbestos

After a pipe burst recently, residents in a metropolitan area became exposed to small levels of asbestos. While there is no major health risk reported, authorities are taking this opportunity to remind people some things they should know about asbestos and the diseases that are associated with exposure to it.

First and foremost, people who inhale high levels of the toxic fibers have an increased risk of developing various lung cancers. It is a very sharp and small fiber so when asbestos is not expelled, it becomes embedded in the lining of the lungs causing mesothelioma, asbestosis and other diseases.

Typically, a person who discovers symptoms of asbestos-related diseases has worked or lived around it for several years with high levels of exposure. This is not always true, though, and everyone is exposed to asbestos because there is a low level of it in the air.

Asbestos-related diseases remain dormant in the lungs for several years before symptoms begin to show. Sometimes it can take up to thirty years for a person to start seeing symptoms. These symptoms include a variety of chest-related ailments.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Change in cough pattern or blood in the fluid that is coughed up
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Trouble swallowing or extended hoarseness

If a person suspects that he or she has these symptoms and believes there has been exposure to asbestos, it is very important to discontinue any possible exposure to asbestos and tobacco smoke. Visiting a doctor for checkups and receiving prompt medical attention is very important in preventing infections.

In cases when a person has been negligently exposed to asbestos and has gotten sick, the victim or the victim's family may be able to seek compensation for damages.

Source: stlmag.com, "10 Things You Should Know About Asbestos," Nancy McMullen, April 6, 2012

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