In a nutshell, asbestosis is an illness of the lungs caused by breathing in fibres from asbestos materials, even as long ago as 15 to 30 years.
Asbestos was once widely used in industries such as construction because it is extremely resistant to fire and makes for an excellent insulator. However since it has been proven to be highly hazardous to the human body, apart from a small number of specialist uses, all types of asbestos have been banned since 1999.
The following guide will explain the ins and outs of what causes asbestosis and the professions that are at high risk of developing this serious lung condition (which there is no cure for). For help if you’ve been diagnosed with asbestosis, it’s best to contact a reputable specialist such as Asbestos Victim Advice)..
When a person inhales a foreign body such as a dust particle, the normal process is that the body’s cells (macrophages found in the alveoli of the lungs) break the particle down before it reaches the lung tissues and blood stream where it could cause harm.
Asbestos materials however are comprised of crystalline fibres so tough in structure that when they are air born and breathed in, the macrophages cannot break them down. In their effort to do their job, the macrophages release chemical substances to destroy the fibres. These chemicals cause inflammation and can permanently damage the alveoli (tiny air sacs) in your lungs.
Alveoli damage is a serious problem, since these vital tools help to transfer oxygen from your lungs into your blood when you breathe in, and expel harmful carbon dioxide from the body by clearing it from your blood, through your lungs and out your mouth when you breathe out. If the alveoli cannot perform correctly it results in breathlessness and a cough, while in cases of extreme damage it can be fatal.
Exposure to asbestos fibres over a long period of time causes your alveoli to become scarred. This scarring is called fibrosis, which when caused by large amounts of asbestos fibre inhalation is known as asbestosis.
The scary thing about this condition is that the symptoms do not become fully evident until 15 to 30 years after exposure, meaning the damage has been done.
Occupations at High Risk of Asbestos Exposure and Asbestosis
As mentioned, if you work in building that were constructed before the year 2000, it is likely you will be exposed to asbestos, particularly in buildings made during the 1970s when asbestos use was at its peak.
The industries which frequently used asbestos materials before they were banned include:
- Chemical Manufacturing
- Fabric, Thread & Yarn Mills
- Non-metallic Mineral Stone Production
- Plastic Production
- Rubber Production
- Ship Building & Repair
- Trucking services
- The following occupations are at high risk of asbestos exposure:
- Air-conditioning Engineers
- Chemical Technicians
- Heating Engineers
- Insulation Workers
- Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters
- Refrigeration Engineers
- Shipyard Workers
- Sheet metal workers
Other Factors which Affect the Development or Worsening of Asbestosis
While asbestos fibre exposure is harmful to the lungs as a blanket statement, it can affect individuals differently, depending on the following factors:
- How much asbestos was breathed in.
- The type of asbestos fibre a person was exposed to i.e. blue asbestos (crocidolite) is the most dangerous, followed by brown asbestos (amosite). These two are far more dangerous than the white variety of asbestos (chrysotile).
- The health level of the individual i.e. asbestosis symptoms are likely to be more severe in people who smoked or had lung disease before they were exposed to asbestos.
If you have worked in any of the above industries or occupations that have dealt with materials or buildings constructed before the year 2000, it’s advisable to visit a doctor to rule out asbestosis. Should you be diagnosed with the condition, you are entitled to financial compensation. The best way forward is to consult with an experienced specialist such as Asbestos Victim Advice , since they will ensure you get the highest compensation possible.