Asbestos is the general term for a group of naturally occurring compounds called hydrated magnesium silicates. These compounds are associated with several diseases including asbestosis which involves the tissue of the lung, pleural disease which is related to the surface covering of the lung and inner chest wall and malignancies which can occur in the lung, chest wall and other organs of the body, most commonly the abdomen.
In the US, the use of asbestosis has been limited since the 1970’s. It is still permitted for use in automotive brake pads and gaskets, roofing products and fire proof clothing. The commercial use of asbestosis is banned in many countries but is still mined in Russia, China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan.
Asbestos fibers deposited in lung tissue cause chronic inflammation. Cells in the lung continually try to ingest these fibers, a process which leads to scarring and lung dysfunction. The fibers may migrate to the surface lining of the lungs or swallowed particles may migrate to the surface lining of the abdomen and gastrointestinal tract.
All the areas of deposition are subject to the potential of cancer development. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs and chest wall and is specifically associated with asbestosis exposure.
Asbestosis, the lung disease caused by asbestosis exposure, develops slowly over 20-30 years after exposure. The symptoms are those of cough and shortness of breath. The diagnosis is made by a history of exposure and x-ray imaging. There is no cure