How does asbestos make people sick?

Most people in North Carolina are aware that asbestos can cause a number of serious illnesses, but very few understand the way in which asbestos makes people sick and – in too many cases – kills them. In this post, we want to describe the various ways in which asbestos can cause serious illness.

Asbestos is a mineral that was used for many years to manufacture insulation, brake pads, valve gaskets, ceiling tiles and similar products. Despite being a mineral, asbestos is made up of tiny fibers. These fibers are sharp and can be easily trapped in lung tissue and other bodily tissues if they are inhaled. When an asbestos-containing product is broken into fragments, these fibers are released into the atmosphere. The air-borne asbestos fibers are then inhaled by people who are nearby, such as pipe fitters, auto mechanics and construction workers.

The four major diseases caused by asbestos product exposure are pleural effusion, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Pleural effusion is the accumulation of fluids in the space between the lungs and the chest wall. This disease can be painful and cause difficulty breathing and is usually fatal. Asbestosis is the progressive scarring of lung tissue. The scarring prevents the lungs from expanding and contracting normally. The condition can seriously interfere with pulmonary function in people who have long been exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos also causes lung cancer. Because lung cancer is one of the most common cancers, physicians have developed many successful treatments if the diagnosis occurs early in the course of the disease. The most serious disease caused by asbestos-product exposure is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused almost exclusively by inhalation of asbestos fibers. The disease takes many years to manifest and is often found only after the period when surgery, radiation or chemotherapy would be effective.

Any person who suffers from an asbestos-related disease may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in handling product liability cases concerning asbestos. A knowledgeable attorney can provide an evaluation of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “What Are Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases?” accessed on July 16, 2016