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Asbestos Diseases Overview

Asbestosis Lung Asbestosis Lung

Pleural Thickening

The pleura is a two-layered membrane which surrounds the lungs and lines the inside of the rib cage. Some asbestos fibres inhaled into lungs work their way out to the pleura and may cause fibrosis or scarring to develop there. This causes the pleura to thicken, which can cause breathlessness.

Pleural Plaques

Pleural plaques are localised areas of thickening caused by asbestos fibres which have migrated to the pleura. Plaques usually do not cause breathlessness, but may cause anxiety because asbestos fibres in the lungs and the pleura have the potential to cause more serious asbestos related conditions.


Asbestosis is a type of fibrous or scarring of the lung caused by asbestos fibres which have lodged in the lungs after being inhaled from the air. This fibrosis, sometimes called interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, causes breathlessness. Asbestosis develops in some people who have breathed in a substantial amount of asbestos dust and usually shows itself a long time after inhalation of the dust - often twenty or thirty years after the start of the exposure. Asbestosis is now usually mild, and usually progresses slowly.


Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor which begins in the pleura or in the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. The risk of mesothelioma is highest in those who have been heavily exposed to asbestos, but the condition also occurs in people who have had relatively light exposure. It can take up to 60 years for mesothelioma to develop after initial exposure to asbestos.

Lung Cancer

Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing lung cancer. A very important point is that asbestos exposure and smoking act together to produce a huge risk of lung cancer in people exposed to both hazards. Fortunately, this means that people who have been exposed to asbestos can greatly reduce the risk of lung cancer by not smoking.

Smoking and Exposure to Asbestos

Some estimates indicate that smoking increases the likelihood of developing an Asbestos related disease by 92%. If you have been exposed to Asbestos dust, it is in your own, and your family's interest to stop smoking immediately.

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