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Certain people at higher risk of asbestos-related illnesses

It can be extremely upsetting and shocking to learn that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness caused by exposure to asbestos. In many cases, the diagnosis comes decades after the exposure ever happened. This leaves many people scrambling to try and figure out where and when they came into contact with exposure.

Those who are in this situation or are fearful of finding themselves in this situation need to understand that there are certain factors that could put a person at a higher risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. Knowing what these factors are could help people assess their level of risk and even potentially help them make a connection between their illness and what could have caused it.

The factors that can affect whether a person develops a disease linked to asbestos include:

  • Age at the time of exposure: As we discussed in this article on our website, a person's risk of getting sick decreases with age. A study revealed that the risk decreases as a person gets older than 20.
  • Job: Certain workers are disproportionately affected by asbestos. This includes people in the military, construction, plumbing, railroad work and mining.
  • Direct exposure vs. indirect exposure: People who are in direct contact with airborne asbestos for extended periods of time have a very serious risk of getting sick. There is a lower risk -- though still a risk -- of illness for people who are exposed to asbestos when someone else tracks it into their homes. So while a man who worked at a shipyard with asbestos products is at risk of illness, his wife and children could be at risk as well, though perhaps to a lesser degree.
  • Personal risks: People who already suffer from lung diseases and those who also smoke could increase their risks of developing an illness like mesothelioma.

Taking these factors into account could give people an idea of where they fall in terms of asbestos risk. While this information may not be helpful at preventing exposure and illnesses, it can help people have a better understanding of why their or a loved one developed an asbestos-related disease.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "Who Is at Risk for Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases?" accessed on May 28, 2015

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