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What Health Problems Are Associated With Being Exposed To Asbestos?

Asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are in the air that people breathe. Asbestos fibres lodge in the lungs, causing scarring that can ultimately lead to severely impaired lung function (asbestosis) and cancers of the lungs or lung cavity.

There are a number of health risks associated with being exposed to asbestos. Asbestosis is a serious, long-term lung disease that can cause scarring of the lungs and severely impair lung function. Asbestos exposure is also linked to a number of different types of cancer, including lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and cancer of the larynx.

Concern for the health of asbestos workers was expressed as long ago as the late 1800s. The risks became more evident in the late 1960s, when workers who had been heavily exposed 20 to 30 years earlier showed an increased incidence of lung disease. Occupational exposure is now strictly regulated by provincial governments.

Asbestos is a mineral that was once used in a variety of building materials because it is strong and resists fire. However, it can be very dangerous if it becomes airborne, as the fibres can lodge in the lungs and cause serious health problems.

Some of the health problems associated with being exposed to asbestos include:

  • Asbestosis: This is a chronic lung disease that occurs when asbestos fibres are inhaled. It can cause severe scarring in the lungs and reduce lung function.
  • Lung cancer: Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of lung cancer in the United States.
  • Mesothelioma: This is a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest and abdomen. It is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.


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