What is asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic progressive disease that requires high exposures to asbestos over prolonged periods of time and is characterised pathologically by interstitial fibrosis and asbestos bodies. Asbestosis is a consequence of prolonged exposure to large quantities of asbestos, a material once widely used in construction, insulation, and manufacturing. When asbestos is inhaled, fibers penetrate the breathing passages and irritate, fill, inflame, and scar lung tissue. In advanced
asbestosis,, the lungs shrink, stiffen, and become honeycombed (riddled with tiny holes).
Asbestos is a mineral that can be woven like wool. Asbestos is a natural mineral product known to be resistant to heat and corrosion. Its fibers, which are strong and flexible, are easily woven together and were used extensively in the past in the building and manufacturing industries. Some of its more common uses were in pipe and duct insulation, fire-retardant materials, brake and clutch linings, cement, and some vinyl floor tiles.
Asbestosis is a progressive disease: as the scarring of the lungs gets worse, the lungs' vital capacity continues to decrease. Asbestosis can cause severe shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and lead to heart problems. Asbestosis may also be present in people suffering from asbestos-caused cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, although asbestosis does not develop into these or any other form of cancer. Asbestosis, as with all other asbestos-related diseases, is a latent disease. This means that asbestosis typically develops many years after a person's initial exposure to asbestos. The latency period for asbestosis is typically 15 or more years after initial exposure, but can be sooner or later than that time period.
People most likely to develop asbestosis are those who've been exposed to it for a long time. Most people with asbestosis acquired it on the job before the federal government began regulating the use of asbestos and asbestos products in the mid-1970s. Today, its handling is strictly regulated by federal, state and local government agencies. Still, since the 1940s, up to 10 million people may have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestosis is most common in men over 40 who have worked in asbestos-related occupations. Smokers or heavy drinkers have the greatest risk of developing this disease.