Asbestosis is a disease caused exclusively by asbestos exposure. On an average, 10,000 people die in the United States due to asbestos-related diseases. People who worked in high-risk conditions during the mid-twentieth century are diagnosed with several asbestos-related problems. Constant and continuous exposure to asbestos results in inhalation of asbestos dust, particles, and fibers which cause asbestosis. People in the household who inhale asbestos fibers that cling to shoes and clothes are also at risk.
Lung disease caused by asbestos is spread through the air. The more asbestos-containing materials you are exposed to, the more likely it is that you will get sick from asbestos. Other known health risks, like smoking, also make this more likely.
What is Asbestosis?
Asbestos is defined by the EPA as “a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals.” Asbestos fibers have been used in a variety of manufactured goods due to their properties, including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts.”
When people working in at-risk occupations inhale asbestos, the fibers enter the lungs and cause asbestosis. It is a severe and progressive pulmonary disease. The disease is dangerous because asbestosis symptoms show up only after asbestos fibers cause damage to the lungs. Moreover, this damage is irreversible, and damage can’t be undone.
Treatments for asbestosis prevent further damage, but people will remain affected for the entire life span. Once asbestosis symptoms are experienced, there is no going back, and treatments help in making breathing comparatively easier. Patients are kept under close watch to find out whether asbestosis grows into mesothelioma.
Where Does Asbestos Come From?
Asbestos minerals are found in metamorphic rocks. It can also be found in soil.
While asbestos is found almost everywhere in the world, significant deposits of asbestos are found in the western United States. However, asbestos minerals are abundant in the mountains of North and South Carolina. Some minor deposits can be found in East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. There is currently no asbestos production in the United States.
The large-scale asbestos industry began in Canada, where asbestos mining dates back to the 1870s. After about a decade, other countries such as the United States, South Africa, Russia, and Italy followed suit.
They began to produce asbestos for industrial purposes, and as a result, the use of asbestos became more widespread throughout the world.
Most countries now prohibit the production of asbestos because it is recognized as a serious health hazard. However, asbestos mining continues in some countries, including Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Brazil.
Common Asbestos Products
As previously stated, asbestos was used in a variety of materials and products prior to its ban in many countries.
Asbestos was used in both industrial and commercial products across a wide range of industries. Plumbing, electrical, construction, power generation, automotive, and oil and gas are all examples.
Even now, there may be asbestos-containing products in your home or workplace.
However, asbestos exposure today is more likely to occur if such materials must be disrupted, which could result in asbestos fibers becoming airborne. Building renovations or the demolition of an old building are two common examples.
Several asbestos products have been developed over the years, including:
- Asbestos cement
- Tiles used for flooring, ceiling and roofing
- Asbestos reinforced plastic products
- Asbestos roofing felt and other roofing materials
- Asbestos insulation in pipes and steam engines
- Automotive parts such as brake pads, gaskets, clutches and valves
- Textiles such as blankets and firefighter suits
- Electrical components
- Laboratory equipment
- Duct connectors
- Vinyl products
There are even consumer goods that might include asbestos, such as:
- Hair dryers
- Talcum powder
- Ashtray coasters
- Cigarette filters
Asbestosis has a longer latency period, which means that the disease develops after several years of exposure. When asbestosis symptoms show up, it is an indication that damage has already been caused. Typically, the symptoms are noticeable at least 20 to 30 years after exposure. It is for this reason that patients with asbestosis belong to the elderly category. Early diagnosis of asbestosis symptoms can prevent damage to some extent. It is better to consult a physician if you suspect that you may have been exposed to asbestos.
The most obvious of the asbestosis symptoms is difficulty in breathing during physical exertion. Generalized illness and sick feelings are noticed in most of the patients. Persistent dry cough is also one of the most common asbestosis symptoms. Fluid accumulation in the lungs is the reason for dry cough. Asbestos fibers cause scarring of lung tissues and this may lead to cancerous growth. However, asbestosis is not exactly a type of cancer. Stiffness of the chest wall is also experienced by asbestosis patients, and mild breathing difficulties should not be ignored. Coughing and wheezing will be experienced by asbestosis patients who smoke.
Asbestosis symptoms intensify every year, and breathing may become increasingly difficult. About 15% of asbestosis patients suffer from shortness of breath and respiratory failure. Recurrent respiratory infections can’t be avoided with scarred lungs. Coughing up blood indicates that the disease has increased in severity. Hoarseness and restless sleep due to difficult breathing are experienced by asbestosis patients. Some patients have thickened and widened fingers. The pleural layer of the lungs will be inflamed due to the scars caused by asbestos fibers.
While asbestos has been appropriately vilified for its role in causing life-threatening and even fatal diseases, it is still important to know everything about the substance so that you are aware of how it became popular, where it may be present in your environment, and what diseases it causes. Although asbestos has been phased out in the United States since the 1980s, it remains a very real threat as the expected peak in mesothelioma diagnoses does not occur until 2016.
First, let’s take a brief look at the history of asbestos. It has been popular substance for thousands of years, with its presence being recorded even as far back as 3,000 years ago as chinking in living structures found in modern-day Finland. Additionally, ancient Greeks and Romans also appreciated the substance for its flame-retardant capabilities. However, even scholars from these times noted the health risks associated with prolonged, intense asbestos exposure.
After a period of obscurity, asbestos again rose to our notice during the Industrial Revolution. Due to the need for insulating materials to protect against the exponentially increasing presence of motors and engines, people turned to asbestos. Since then, it spread into the shipping, automotive, and construction industries, among others. It was once found in everything from vinyl flooring to stage curtains to car gaskets.
Types of Asbestos
Many properties built in the twentieth century contained high levels of asbestos materials that needed to be removed and disposed of.
Asbestos is made up of several minerals from the serpentine and amphibole families. These include:
The last two were used less frequently than the first four, but they can still be found in some materials and products.
These asbestos fibers are all straight and jagged in shape. They are frequently described as resembling needles.
These minerals were also widely used in the production of a wide range of products and materials, such as cement sheets, ceiling tiles, insulating boards, and thermal insulation products.
This Six asbestos types are categorized into Two Classes
Chrysolite is the only type of asbestos found in the latter category. White asbestos is another name for it. The fibers have a curly appearance and a layered structure.
White asbestos was widely used in the construction industry and can be found in a variety of old structures, including plaster, roofing, ceilings, floor tiles, and pipe insulation.
Why is Asbestos Hazardous?
Asbestos has certain qualities that make it so useful. First, it is a silicate mineral, and silicates have a number of beneficial properties. Silicates are resistant to heat, flame, chemicals, electricity, and biodegradation. In addition to these qualities, asbestos has some unique characteristics of its own that contributed to its popularity. It has high tensile strength and flexibility, which allows it to be added to almost anything.
However, asbestos can easily be split into a multitude of microscopic fibers that can become lodged in your body whether inhaled or ingested. The body is unable to digest and break down asbestos fibers, which means that they can stay in your body for years. The body forms nodules around the fibers, which can turn into cancer and other diseases.
There are several disorders that can be caused by asbestos, including:
- Lung cancer
- Pleural plaques
- Pleural effusion
- Asbestos warts
After recognizing these problems, people began to call for the outlawing of asbestos primarily beginning in the 1970s. Thus, the United States government finally took certain measures to protect us against asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out in 1989, which prevents against adding the material to new products and spreading older products that already contain asbestos.
Sadly, this ban came too late for many people. Asbestos is still very much a presence in our lives, in things like brake pads and housing insulation for homes built before the phase-out. Treating an asbestos-related disease can be difficult and expensive. If you or someone you know has been illegally exposed to asbestos, relating in mesothelioma or another such disease, you should talk to a lawyer about your options.
How Does It Asbestosis Affect You?
Asbestos related lung disease occurs through airborne exposure. The greater your exposure is to asbestos containing materials the greater your chances are of becoming afflicted with an asbestos related illness. Other documented health risks, such as smoking, also increases these chances.
There are times when your chances of exposure are at their greatest. When a building is being demolished or remodeled, such as a business or home, asbestos fiber particles can be disturbed and allowed to circulate freely through the air and be deposited on any surface within the area. This is only a possibility if asbestos containing materials were used in the construction of your home or business. If asbestos containing materials were used and demolition or remodeling disturbs the particles they can be inhaled by the people and animals in the area. Once the particles are inhaled they can become embedded in the lung tissue and over time cause many health issues such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Asbestosis is a very serious and progressive non-cancer illness that can have long-term consequences. Inhaled asbestos fibers can irritate the lining of the lungs and cause permanent scarring which makes it extremely difficult for the lungs to function properly in the exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen. Sadly, there is no treatment for persons suffering from asbestosis.
Lung cancer is another disease that can be causes by exposure to asbestos particles and is responsible for the largest number of deaths due to asbestos particle exposure. Those most at risk for lung cancer are people who were employed in the mining, processing, and manufacturing of asbestos containing products. People who experienced this type of exposure or used asbestos containing products in the course of their employment are more at risk to develop lung cancer when compared to the population in general.
Mesothelioma is an asbestos related rare type of cancer that can affect the abdomen, chest, heart, and lungs. It can take many years to develop and progress to point where it can be diagnosed. Currently there is no cure for Mesothelioma and people who are affected by it can face many years of medical appointments, treatments, and related therapies.
It is in your best interest to get your home or business inspected for asbestos before beginning a demolition or remodeling project. It is better to prevent exposure than to have to deal with the aftermath of it. If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, asbestos containing products, or an area that may have contained asbestos where demolition or remodeling was being performed you should contact a doctor or medical professional who deals specifically with asbestos exposure and related illnesses.
You should also contact an experienced attorney skilled in cases involving asbestos related illness who can best represent you. Any illness caused by asbestos is serious and requires immediate attention. Finding an attorney with the required expertise and compassion to represent your concerns and needs is the best way to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Gendicine, Could it Be the Next Promising Cure For Asbestos caused Cancer?
Although Europe and the United States are likely to take another year to approve gene therapy, at least two clinical trials for mesothelioma are currently underway. Among them are the University of Pennsylvania and Louisiana State University. Unfortunately, gene therapy research suffered a major setback in 1999 when Jesse Gelsinger, a teenager, died during a gene therapy clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania.
Despite this, China is now the world’s only country that has approved gene therapy. The State Food and Drug Administration of China approved the drug Gendicine on October 16, 2003. Gendicine was approved after more than 5 years of clinical trials. They have currently used this therapy on over 4500 patients and have been following the progress of their patients for over 6 years. Hundreds of cancer patients from all over the world are now making their way to Beijing to receive this cutting-edge treatment.
The clinical trials of Gendicine included 135 patients, and the results showed that after 8 weekly injections in combination with radiation therapy, 64% of patients had tumor regression. According to clinical trial findings, combining Gendicine with chemotherapy and radiation therapy can increase efficacy by threefold. Gendicine’s only side effect is a typical overnight fever.
Because there are no other approved gene therapy treatments in the world, many desperate cancer patients from North America and Europe travel to Beijing, China to receive Gendicine treatment.
Richard Weissenborn of Texas, USA, was diagnosed with tongue cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes in July 2006 and was given two months to live. Dr. Li Dinggang treated him with Gendicine and chemotherapy at the Haidan Hospital in Beijing for about $30,000 US.
A pet scan revealed that he was cancer-free after two cycles of treatment over two months. The controversy in this story stems from the fact that, while Richard’s cancer was gone, there is some doubt as to whether the chemotherapy or Gendicine cured it. Cancer specialist Dr. Mark Persky stated, “According to my review, there’s really no way of telling whether one or the other caused tumor regression.”
A healthy cell contains a gene called p53, which can repair DNA, stop cell growth, and initiate cellular self-destruction if the cell damage is too severe, as in the case of cancer. However, according to a study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine in Beijing, there is a high occurrence of p53 gene damage in asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma.
Gendicine works by reactivating the p53 gene, which acts as a tumor suppressor but is turned off in cancer cells due to mutagens such as asbestos, chemicals, and radiation. A virus is used as a vehicle to deliver the p53 gene into cancerous cells, causing the p53 gene to become reactive and initiate self-destruction (apoptosis) of the cancer cell.