Asbestos is a general term that represents six kinds of naturally occurring minerals. The minerals are composed of durable fibers that are both chemical and fire resistant. Several years ago, it was crowned the “miracle mineral” because of its excellent properties that made it appropriate for use in several products. It found its applications in protective gear, building materials and many other products that required toughness. Currently, asbestos has been found to cause lung related illnesses.
Types of asbestos causing health effects
All the six kinds of asbestos share some common features. For instance, they are all tasteless and odorless thus are not detectable by visual examination. This implies that if asbestos is within your environment, you can never tell unless samples are taken to the laboratory for testing. The six types have been categorized into two classes, based on the similarity in their characteristics.
This category includes only one mineral of the six, known as white asbestos or chrysotile. White asbestos is composed of long, kinky fibers. It was the most commonly used type since it can be combined with other elements easily. Before the knowledge of asbestos and its effects, chrysotile was often used in materials that required superb heat and fire resistant characteristics.
This category included the other five asbestos minerals. They are tremolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite and actinolite. All these minerals are composed of needle-shaped fibers. Because of their brittle nature, they cause more harm than serpentine asbestos when swallowed or inhaled. However, this characteristic did not make amphibole asbestos commercially viable. Thus, their exposure is limited to naturally occurring deposits only.
The condition affects the lungs. It is characterized by prolonged cough; shortness of breath and in severe cases may lead to permanent lung damage. Symptoms include chest pain and broad toenails and fingernails. Usually, the symptoms do not show until when one has inhaled a considerable dose of asbestos.
It is not possible to remedy the damage caused by the asbestos on the alveoli. Usually, the doctor will prescribe ways you can manage the condition. This includes using oxygen to facilitate breathing. In case your symptoms are severe, you might require a lung transplant. Asbestosis has been directly linked to lung cancer.
Mesothelioma is cancer that affects the linings of the chest, abdomen or lungs. Usually, if you have worked in an asbestos firm or lived with somebody who has, and you have trouble breathing well, you might be suffering from mesothelioma. One of the earliest signs to look out for is fluid buildup within the lung area. Other symptoms include fatigue, pain within the rib cage, breathing difficulties, lumps in the belly, severe cough and constipation.
Diagnosis involves the use of an X-ray of the chest or a pulmonary function test to determine the volume of air that the lungs can hold. A biopsy or a CT scan is instrumental in concluding whether you have mesothelioma or not.
This cancer is rare and mainly affects people who have worked with asbestos and those residing with them. It takes a maximum of 20 years for the onset of symptoms to be seen. Treatment of mesothelioma includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.