How Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?
Asbestos is a silicate mineral that was once used widely in many building products, including attic and wall insulation, vinyl floor tiles, roofing shingles, siding, textured paint, patching compounds, and more. Asbestos particles can cause lung cancer if inhaled.
If you live in an older home with the potential for asbestos-containing materials, don’t panic—left untouched, asbestos is relatively harmless. However, it’s important to leave asbestos removal to a licensed professional because if the material is disturbed, that’s when dangerous, cancer-causing particles enter the air.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Tiny, sharp asbestos fibers can get stuck in your airway and lungs. The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms, known as the latency period, can be 10 to 50 years, which explains why asbestos was used for decades before being recognized as a health hazard.
The early symptoms of asbestos exposure may include chest, back, and stomach pain, along with flu-like symptoms. These symptoms result from fluid buildup in the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss may develop later may.
The signs of asbestos exposure are easy to write off as other less dangerous health issues. As a result, asbestos-related illnesses are often only identified once they have become difficult to manage.
What Health Problems Can Asbestos Cause?
Inhaled asbestos fibers can cause various cancerous and non-cancerous diseases. The most dangerous is mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the protective membrane around the lungs, heart, and other abdominal organs. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. The tumors tend to blend in with healthy tissue, making them difficult to locate and remove. It takes decades for mesothelioma to develop but only months to spread.
Several other conditions are associated with asbestos exposure, including:
- Lung cancer: Asbestos exposure causes six times more lung cancer cases than mesothelioma. This is a cancer of the lungs rather than the lining surrounding them.
- Larynx and kidney cancer: The larynx (voice box) and kidneys can also develop cancerous tumors from inhaling asbestos fibers.
- Asbestosis: This chronic, inflammatory lung disease is caused by long-term, heavy exposure to asbestos. It isn’t cancerous, but the severe lung scarring it causes can be fatal.
- Asbestos pleural disease: The symptoms of this disease are similar to asbestosis, but it affects the lining of the lungs, not the organs themselves.
- Bronchitis and pneumonia: The stress asbestos fibers put on the lungs and airways can cause severe cases of bronchitis and pneumonia. These conditions may appear independently or alongside the other diseases mentioned here.
Was your home recently damaged in a fire or flood? If the building was constructed before 1980, asbestos testing is a critical part of the restoration process. To prevent exposure, leave the job to DKI. Our licensed asbestos remediation professionals have the proper training and equipment to mitigate the risk before you settle back into your home following the disaster. For more information about our services, please contact us at 844.345.2255.