What Is Asbestos Poisoning?
Asbestos is a poisonous mineral that forms underground in rock and soil deposits. This mineral has the ability to withstand heat, fire, electricity, and chemicals, and was once used to reinforce many building materials. For decades, manufacturers reinforced a number of products with asbestos, even after researchers discovered its latent harmful effect on humans. When people spend too much time around the friable type (powdery, easily crumbled), they run the risks of asbestos poisoning. Even spending a short amount of time exposed to the mineral is dangerous, as there is no safe level.
Unfortunately, asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma or asbestosis can take decades to develop symptoms, making it difficult for patients to remember exposure.
Who Is at Risk?
Workers and residents who frequent contaminated buildings are the highest at risk for exposure that may cause asbestos poisoning. It’s important to note, however, that people around contaminated infrastructure that are in good condition and not worn down (non-friable) are mostly safe from dangerous exposure.
Friable asbestos is dangerous because it crumbles and breaks with little effort, easily spreading tiny, spindly, toxic asbestos fibers into the air. Once airborne, people can easily inhale or ingest fibers. Non-friable is safer because it’s usually built into the infrastructure where it’s packed away and can’t become airborne as easily. Even non-friable asbestos can become a risk for poisoning people if the item is destroyed, reconstructed, or demolished. Natural disasters often threaten exposure if they are strong enough to cause damage to the contaminated materials.
People at risk for asbestos poisoning include:
- Construction workers
- Chemical processors
- Factory crews
- Demolition teams
- Mining and milling workers
- Military service members and veterans
- First responders
Adding to that, even spouses, family members, and close friends run the risk of asbestos poisoning through indirect exposure. When workers are exposed to the mineral’s powdery fibers, they get stuck on clothes, hair, and skin. If the worker doesn’t properly clean or dispose of the contaminated items, they can pass the toxic fibers to their loved ones through person-to-person contact.
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Symptoms of Asbestos Poisoning
Mesotheliomas, a debilitating symptom of asbestos poisoning, is a form of cancer that primarily impacts the tissue lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Tissue cells get irritated and can form tumors when the person inhales tiny asbestos fibers that get lodged in one of these areas and begins causing damage.
Asbestosis may be an earlier asbestos poisoning symptom. This disease causes the patient to suffer from chest pain, trouble breathing, and pulmonary hypertension. Other warning signs of asbestos poisoning are:
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, or restricted breathing
- Bloated fingertips
- Extreme tiredness, weakness, or fatigue for long periods
- Chronic dry cough
Moreover, if you get chronic symptoms that keep coming back, go to the doctor for health tests. Often, catching asbestos poisoning as soon as possible can make a huge difference in the patient’s treatment options.
How to Stay Safe
Workers can stay safe and reduce the risk of asbestos poisoning by employing a few safety tactics when working in high-risk asbestos areas. Some ways to protect yourself when working in dangerous environments include:
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Test suspected areas for carcinogens
- Hire a professional to remove or encapsulate any poisonous substances from the property
Exposed to asbestos while on the job and want to learn more? You have rights. There are laws and regulations in place to protect workers and residents from negligent exposure to asbestos.