What are the health risks of exposure to asbestos?
Asbestos fibres are microscopic and therefore cannot be seen, nor can the fibres be smelled or tasted, so it is easy to inhale or swallow asbestos dust without realizing it. Once asbestos fibres are in the body, they never dissolve and the body has extreme difficulty expelling them. Over years, trapped asbestos fibres can cause inflammation, scarring and eventually genetic damage to the body’s cells. It can take between 20 to 50 years for asbestos-related illnesses to materialize, therefore most cases today were caused by asbestos exposures that occurred before modern safety regulations came into effect. Asbestos fibers most often accumulate in lung tissue and in the membrane lining the lungs. Benign asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, pleuritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which make it difficult for patients to breathe. Asbestos also causes malignant diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma which is a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity.