Do All People Exposed to Asbestos Develop Asbestos-Related Diseases?
Not everybody exposed to asbestos will get an asbestos-related illness, for several reasons.
Asbestos Exposure and Cancer RiskWithin limits, the body tends to get rid of unwanted fibers by itself: you cough and expel toxic substances without even realizing it. Some substances, like asbestos fibers, are harder to get rid of, depending on several factors. For example, how much exposure you had to asbestos, how much asbestos you were exposed to, the kind of asbestos you were exposed to, as well as individual risk factors (for instance, statistically mainly men over 45 are known to develop asbestos related diseases).
The reason the type of asbestos is important is that different kinds may be associated with various health hazards. Asbestos is not just one thing; it is a generic name for several types of amphibole and serpentine minerals. According to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), varieties of the following minerals can be identified as asbestos: chrysotile (white asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), tremolite (green asbestos), anthophyllite (brown asbestos), and actinolite. Amphibole fibers are chain-like, whereas serpentine fibers are layered. Amphibole fibers are more dangerous than those of other substances because they tend to attach to lung tissues and are harder to expel.
Discover more about asbestos exposure: https://www.elglaw.com/asbestos-exposure/
Who Is at Risk for Asbestos-Related DiseasesReduced levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. Most people are exposed to asbestos at one point or another in their lives. However, most do not become ill from the exposure. Individuals who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, for example, in a job where they work directly with asbestos-derived products. The jobs associated with the highest risk are those in the field of constructions, shipbuilding, railroads, or the automotive industries. Failure to keep asbestos products wet leads to fibers being airborne, and inhalation is the main way of acquiring an asbestos-related disease.
It is, however, not just construction workers who are more at risk; veterans are notoriously prone to asbestos-related diseases, as military and naval jobs often entail work on sites where asbestos was heavily employed.
Another group of people at risk are rescue workers, with the most notorious case being that of firefighters and paramedics involved in the rescue operations after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Since asbestos had been employed in the construction of the towers, their fall led to substantial exposure in the Ground Zero rubble. Studies conducted on WTC rescue and recovery workers show abnormal lung function, due, most likely, to the combination of asbestos and other types of debris in the aftermath of the attacks. These facts indicate that it isn't just exposure over an extended period that causes damage, but also intense exposure to massive doses.
Even people living close to asbestos mines and family members of people working with asbestos are at risk for developing asbestos-related conditions, as they come into contact with fibers airborne or carried by family members. Federal law demands that strict workplace practices are put in place, such as workers showering or changing clothes before leaving, or washing work clothes separately, to minimize the risks.
However, symptoms of asbestos-related diseases usually develop over an extended period of time. Fibers that enter the lungs get lodged in, cannot be felt (or, even if felt, cannot be removed) and start scarring the tissue over time, and the damage can sometimes only be seen as early as 5 years or as late as 40 or more years after exposure.
It is, therefore, not possible to appreciate with certainty whether you are at risk for an asbestos-related injury. You can try to minimize exposure and get a medical check-up if you have suspicions. However, bear in mind that most of us walk through invisible clouds of asbestos fibers now and then, and yet only 2% to 10% of those heavily exposed to asbestos over long periods of time will develop mesothelioma. In other words, although you should always stick to safe practices, statistically you are more likely not to develop this condition, even with the heaviest degree of exposure.
Find out more about the risk of secondary exposure: https://www.elglaw.com/faq/what-was-the-risk-of-secondary-exposure-in-the-past/