October 12, 2011

Asbestos is a miracle material

For the eye of the unsuspecting public, asbestos is a miracle material that protects their houses and other materials from easily contracting fire. But, behind these advantages to homeowners, the industrial workers suffer from health hazards that are oftentimes fatal.

Asbestos was primarily used to fireproof houses; it was also popular as a roofing. However, during the recent years, many diseases have been related to it and it is apparent that many more will be discovered that can be directly rooted to asbestos.

But asbestos, as is, does not really cause the diseases. Instead, the culprit is known to be the asbestos fiber that comes from the damaged asbestos materials. These accumulate through continuous dilapidation of asbestos-based products, say the roofing of your attic. Once there are conditions that led to the damaging of the asbestos, it is likely that the material will release asbestos fiber that can be sent to the air. The danger now comes when a person inhales the asbestos fiber since it will likely stay in the air passages - the lungs, thus leaving fibers that can cause asbestos diseases.

There are higher risks though in industrial workplaces such as mines, shipyards, construction sites, and railroads since there are higher degrees of asbestos use. Thus, people who have worked in these places are likely to have higher risks of contracting asbestos diseases. This is also the reason why mesothelioma, laryngeal cancer or asbestosis are considered as occupational diseases.

There are several risk factors that will largely determine the probability that you will contract asbestos diseases. These include the following:

Concentration - Asbestos diseases will only develop in relation to the degree of exposure. There should be enough concentration of asbestos in the air we breathe before we even begin to develop asbestos disease silently. If such concentration is not met, the likelihood that a person will contract the disease is very low thus, even if you were around a house with dilapidated roofing made of asbestos, that is still not enough reason for your body to react violently. Companies who practice regulation of the degree of asbestos fiber in the atmosphere of the worksites are at very low risks of jeopardizing the health of their workmen.

Duration - Asbestos exposure needs a relatively long period of time before the person is endangered.

Dose - There is a certain combination of concentration and duration that limits the person's capability to resist the disease. Once the immune system is breached, the person is likely to suffer from a continuous development of asbestos diseases without usually knowing the presence of the disease.

Asbestos diseases are usually dose-responsive. This means that with a longer exposure comes higher dosage of asbestos fiber exposure. Therefore, there are high risks of contracting and developing diseases.

Typically, the development of any asbestos disease depends on this dosage-response principle. People who have worked in industries that make use of large asbestos concentration are at greater risk of developing asbestos diseases than those who have used asbestos materials once in their house only. In the same way, a working period of 15 years against 5 years in an asbestos mine has a greater risk factor of building up amounts of asbestos fiber in the body.

But, the greater danger is that both are susceptible to asbestos diseases and other inflammatory and asbestos-related diseases. These include health conditions such as lung cancer and those that affect the mesothelium, the tissue that lines several organs in the body that are most vulnerable to asbestos diseases.

But the problem with asbestos diseases is that they take decades before initial symptoms of diseases are seen. This is the reason why people who have worked in asbestos exposed work sites only discover that they are ill after 20 to 50 years. Family members of these people are also at great risk since asbestos fiber can be transferred to the air.

The time from the initial exposure to the first signs of symptoms is called the latency period. As we have said, this can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years. But the shortest latency period is 5 to 10 years, but this is relatively rare. Chances are, the victim will never get rid of the asbestos fiber once it is inhaled or ingested. This is because the asbestos fiber will remain trapped in the lungs for life.

There is hope in treatment though yet there are no cures for asbestos diseases. The best thing that one can do is to help alleviate the symptoms to lessen the suffering of the victim.