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How big a risk does asbestos pose?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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If you work construction or a variety of other jobs, your job could be harming your health without your even realizing it. How? You could be inhaling asbestos fibers emitted from the materials with which you work.

FindLaw explains that asbestos fiber inhalation over a period of years can cause such incurable diseases as mesothelomia and asbestosis. The former is an aggressive form of cancer; the latter is a serious lung disease.

Workers most at risk

While virtually any worker can unknowingly come into contact with microscopic asbestos fibers, you face the most risk if you work as one of the following:

  • Construction worker, including bricklayers, welders, stonemasons, pipefitters and jackhammer operators
  • Renovator
  • Shipbuilder
  • Firefighter
  • Auto mechanic
  • Miner

Lethal asbestos fibers

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral used in numerous products and materials because of its fire-retardant properties. As it ages, however, it fails to turn to dust the way most minerals do. Instead it decomposes into sharp microscopic fibers that disperse in the slightest air current. The fibers are so tiny that they get through normal protective masks and enter your lungs. Once there, they begin building up, eventually causing such symptoms as the following:

  • Coughing fits, sometimes producing blood
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased appetite and weight
  • Stomach pain

Unfortunately, all of these symptoms can indicate a variety of diseases, making asbestos “poisoning” difficult to diagnose. It is not uncommon for mesothelioma and asbestosis sufferers to go without a proper diagnosis for years after first inhaling asbestos fibers. Even with a proper diagnosis, however, neither illness has a cure. The best your doctor can do is to manage your disease and treat your symptoms to make you more comfortable.