Continued exposure will increase the amount of asbestos that remains in the lungs. Fibers accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation in the lungs which in turn causes breathing problems. The most common and most major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
- Asbestosis is a serious, progressive and long-term disease of the lungs and is not a cancer. Asbestosis is caused by inhaling the asbestos fibers that irritate and inflame lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring then makes it hard to breath and also hard for the oxygen and carbon dioxide to get into the blood and pass through the lungs. The patient may not have symptoms for up to 10 to 20 years after the initial exposure or the disease can be entirely asymptomatic. This disease progresses very slowly and there is no effective treatment for asbestosis.
- Lung cancer due to asbestos exposure causes the more deaths than any other asbestos-related disease. Lung cancer is a malignant tumor that obstructs the lungs airways.
- Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer found in the lining of the lung, chest, abdomen and heart. Almost all cases of mesothelioma are linked to asbestos exposure and the disease may not show up for many years. The time between initial exposure to diagnosis has commonly been 30 or more years.