The Major Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure

Historically Asbestos was a common material until its long-term effects on health became known. Asbestos was highly regarded for its heat resistance, and durability and fire resistance. explains that in the 20th century it was widely used in warships, roofing and providing heat insulation.

health dangers of asbestos

Exposure to asbestos poses a significant danger to individual health. Research proved asbestos as a carcinogenic material. Therefore, exposure might lead to malignancy and may lead to lung cancer and Mesothelioma. It might also lead to asbestosis and pleural thickening.

Effects of asbestos on health

Ingestion of asbestos may cause cancer of the intestines of the digestive system where the fibers lodge themselves. Many studies suggest that people whose occupation involves contact with asbestos fibers have a higher chance of developing related complications.

Asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and pain in respiratory surfaces. Contact may lead to the formation of persistent wounds and mutation. The naked eye cannot determine exposure to this substance hence its effects tend to take longer to discover. Late prognosis of exposure is what makes it very lethal. These effects are dependent on number and type of fibers inhaled, duration, intensity and the time difference since first exposure.

Ways of being exposed to asbestos.

Exposure to asbestos can occur in a myriad of ways. Asbestos is known to degrade into tiny microfiber which does not decompose. Inhalation, ingestion and physical contact with the fibers are some of the means to get exposed. Working in an area with high concentration of asbestos fibers puts you at the most risk. It is not yet known what amount of exposure safe. It goes without saying that continuous exposure to it is the most harmful. Exposure can occur in some of the following ways:

  • Cohabiting with a person who works with asbestos such as an asbestos remover
  • Living near asbestos factories.
  • Using products with asbestos such as pipe insulation, paints, and shingles.
  • Trying to remove asbestos without professional help.

Who is at risk of being exposed

There are three types of exposure to asbestos namely, occupational, secondary and environmental asbestos exposure. Occupationally, Drywall removers and asbestos removal workers face the highest risk of exposure. Some Australian asbestos removal companies like Pro Asbestos Removal Melbourne go to extreme lengths to minimize the risk of exposure. “We always wear PPE equipment on every site, even before we begin the removal process. Th risks are simply too high for us to risk any of our workers”, their regional manager, Cameron Sims stated in a recent interview.

Before asbestos was classified as harmful firefighters’ suits and gear used to be made of asbestos this put them close to this killer frequently. Secondary exposure occurs when you get exposed because of sharing quarters with a person working with asbestos. Environmental exposure can be as a result of naturally occurring asbestos or careless disposal of asbestos wastes.

Health complications as a consequence of exposure to asbestos

The health problems that are associated to asbestos include are rarely visible in the short run. Swallowing or inhaling the asbestos fiber may cause health conditions some of them exclusive to asbestos such as asbestosis. The vast array of complications may include:

  1. Asbestosis
  2. Mesothelioma
  3. Lung cancer
  4. Pleural thickening

The above complications have fatal consequences if not treated with the required urgency.

asbestos health risks


Asbestosis is the inflammation (fibrosis) of lungs and its tissues caused by asbestos dust. Asbestos dust may cause scarring of the lung leading to difficulties in breathing. Its symptoms are;

  • Wheezing and sounds from chest cavity during inhalation.
  • Oddly shaped nails as a result of reduced air flow to organs.
  • Fibrosis in lung lobes
  • Coughing and Persistent chest pains

Mesothelioma explains Mesothelioma as a rare and stubborn type of cancer almost unique to people exposed to asbestos. It affects the pleural membrane covering the lungs. Its symptoms include;

  • Pain in the chest cavity and upper back.
  • Fatigue and running out of breath quickly.
  • Coughing
  • Fever.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Troubled eating and weight loss.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer as a result of asbestos is no different from common lung cancer. Since asbestos is carcinogenic, it induces carcinoma where the cells of the lungs rapidly mutate affecting the functionality of the lung. According to lung cancer symptoms include.

  • Coughing.
  • Coughing up blood and breathing difficulties.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.
  • Bone pain.
  • Jaundice.
  • Headaches.
  • Lumps in the neck or collar bone region.

Pleural thickening

The pleural membrane covering the lungs may become thick as a result of exposure to asbestos. Its effects include fatigue, breathlessness, and general chest discomfort.

How to protect

To protect yourself against asbestos and its proper effects legislation has to be passed to ensure proper destruction and disposal of asbestos. Individually, however, do not attempt to remove asbestos without proper protection and professional help. Avoid old building that used asbestos to strengthen the cement and taking home tools from asbestos work.



We learn that the effects of exposure to asbestos take a long time to manifest. Half the time it is discovered too late, and the results are near fatal. It is imperative to exercise caution when dealing with it. Proper laws and policies should be put in place to deter any usage of asbestos in future.