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Study: Exposure to blue asbestos raises risk of non-lung cancers

Asbestos has been a worldwide problem for decades. While some countries have not banned the toxic substance, the dangers associated with exposure to asbestos are now generally well-known. Like those in the United States, victims of exposure across the world are suffering from mesothelioma, a lung cancer, and other diseases as a result of their contact with asbestos.

However, one study was recently released that suggests that people who were exposed to blue asbestos, which can be found in Australia, have a higher rate of suffering from non-lung cancers as well. In fact, people are suffering from nervous disorders and even heart disease after being exposed to blue asbestos.

The study monitored Australian residents who grew up on a blue asbestos mining town. Blue asbestos is different from white asbestos because it is made up of much smaller particles and can be easily inhaled when airborne. Exposure to blue asbestos is reportedly nearly 100 times more dangerous as exposure to white asbestos. The subjects of the recent study, who were exposed to the asbestos as children, are now adults and have reported a wide range of devastating and debilitating diseases.

In addition to mesothelioma, which is a devastating lung disease, there has also been an increase in brain, ovarian, colorectal and prostate cancers reported by residents. Further, the study is one of a few studies that suggest that there may be a connection between asbestos exposure and heart disease and meningitis.

In an effort to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the long-term effects of living near blue asbestos, researchers are continuing to track residents of the town who grew up there. By continuing to study populations of people who grew up near asbestos mines or manufacturers, researchers hope to better understand the association between childhood exposure and adult diseases.

Source: ABC.net, "Asbestos may raise risk of non-lung cancers," Bianca Nogrady, Aug. 27, 2012

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