Conditions Caused by Asbestos Thrust into Public Spotlight

From colorectal cancer and COPD to pleural plaques, long list of health complications being attributed to prolonged exposure to the heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral.

Asbestos typically refers to a group of six types of naturally-occurring minerals, but exposure to such material has proven to lead to pleural mesothelioma and other diseases such as lung cancer and what is known as asbestosis. Once lauded for its versatility, asbestos evolved to become recognized for its heat resistance, tensile strength and insulating properties, used for everything from fireproof vests to the more common home and commercial construction. It was in this home and construction segment that severe problems associated with asbestos were uncovered.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there exists six types of asbestos minerals – chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite – and while their properties were once so desired that the U.S. military mandated asbestos use in every branch of service, it was determined the substance was highly toxic. Today, asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma cancer, is banned in more than 50 countries outside the U.S. and its use dramatically restricted in others.

Into the public spotlight have come studies proving asbestos exposure is responsible for a host of health conditions, including those incurred following post-asbestos exposure – known as asbestosis symptoms – such as COPD, gastrointestinal mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure is also responsible for symptoms of rounded atelectasis, colorectal cancer, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, pleurisy and pleural effusion and larynx/throat cancer.

Research conducted by such recognized sources as MedicineNet has revealed that all forms of asbestos increase the risk of lung disease, with three types of asbestos-related lung disease divided among scarring (asbestosis), non-cancerous disease of the tissue lining the surface of the lung (pleural disease) and lung cancer (mesothelioma). Further, reports indicate that the time between exposure to asbestos and the development of cancer can be anywhere between 10 and 40 or more years, with smoking appearing to increase the frequency and/or rate of progression of asbestosis.

Though evidence is largely inconclusive, studies have also suggested an association between asbestos exposure and other cancers including those of the throat, kidney, brain, bladder, voice box, gallbladder and others, however the primary health problems stemming from prolonged exposure continue to register as asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and changes in the membranes surrounding the lungs (pleural plaques), thickening of the membranes surrounding the lungs and pleural effusions (abnormal collections of fluid between the lungs and inside wall of the chest).

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