Study finds low level of asbestos exposure causes lung changes

A common question for persons in North Carolina who may have worked in close proximity to asbestos-containing products is how much asbestos is dangerous. Doctors and scientists have never reached a widely accepted answer to this question, but a recent study published in a leading medical journal dealing with occupational medicine finds that even relatively low levels of asbestos exposure can cause lung abnormalities.

The study focused on employees of W. R. Grace & Co. who worked in the company’s vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. The Libby mine was shut down over 30 years ago, but hundreds of workers are still alive. Five hundred thirteen such workers were studied in 1980, and the 431 surviving workers were the subjects of the current study. The workers were exposed to a form of asbestos known as Libby amphibole asbestos (“LAA”).

Of the workers who were studied, 191 had available CT scans; fifty-three percent of those scans showed asbestos-related changes to the tissue lining in the lungs (pleura), and thirteen percent showed changes to the lung tissue itself. The critical finding involved workers who were exposed to asbestos in concentrations about three to ten times lower than current standards for asbestos exposure. The CT scans for these workers revealed the same kind of lung abnormalities as those found in workers with a much higher level of exposure. The doctors who conducted the study said that these kinds of abnormalities “can be particularly relevant when potentially combined with other respiratory [diseases] that can occur over a person’s lifetime that can impact lung function.”

This study shows again that even low levels of asbestos product exposure can be harmful. Any person who has been exposed to asbestos at concentration should probably seek a medical evaluation and – if the diagnosis shows lung abnormalities – the advice of an attorney with experience in seeking damages for such injuries.

Source:Newswise, Inc., “Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities,” Jan. 6, 2015