Asbestos Diseases Overview
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 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
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.
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.