Wednesday, August 3, 2011
10:39 AM James Manuel No comments
In the early 1900’s, doctors in Europe began to notice that asbestos workers were dying of respiratory ailments. By 1918 some insurance companies were already refusing to cover asbestos workers, noting their unusually short life spans. By the 1930’s, autopsies had established that massive exposure to asbestos could indeed be fatal. The tiny, needle-shaped crystals of many types of asbestos can work their way far down into the lungs, or even into the abdominal cavity, and remain there, sometimes bringing on disease decades later. Following are some of the more common asbestos-related diseases:
Asbestosis. The most common affliction, particularly among those who have had a long-term exposure to asbestos. A scarring of lung tissue that gradually causes the lung to rigidify and that obstructs the air spaces within the lung. Asbestosis causes labored breathing and makes lungs more vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which in turn are much more dangerous to people with the condition. Asbestosis is incurable, and it can kill.
Lung Cancer. Also very common, it kills more people than does asbestosis. Interestingly, though, when exposure to asbestos is combined with the smoking habit, the incidence of lung cancer really soars—far higher than if the risks of smoking and of asbestos exposure were simply added together.
Mesothelioma. A rare but extremely lethal form of cancer. It attacks the membrane that lines the chest or abdominal cavity. It may occur even after limited exposure to the mineral, and it may show up after a delay of as long as 40 years.
According to the International Journal of Health Services, asbestos will cause from two to three hundred thousand premature and painful deaths between 1986 and the year 2000 in the United States alone. If that holds true, it would about equal the number of U.S. military personnel who died in combat in World War II.