Asbestos Exposure has seen tragic outcomes for many workers in Australia over the last number of decades. It is something we are all aware of, yet as our exposure reduces it is easy to become complacent as to the current risk. For this reason this post (written by the Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com) is very timely. See below….
Who Is at Risk of Occupational Asbestos Exposure?
The use of asbestos products has dropped dramatically in recent decades, but the risk of exposure to the toxic mineral remains a continued threat to the health and life expectancy of so many.
Workers in many occupations must stay vigilant.
An exposure to asbestos can lead to a variety of serious diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other respiratory issues.
If the microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can become lodged in the thin lining around the lungs, heart or abdomen and cause scaring that slowly develops into major problems.
Asbestos can be found in most anything built before 1980. As it ages, it becomes more brittle and more dangerous. When disturbed, it can become airborne, threatening anyone in the vicinity.
Most at risk today:
- Firefighters: Blazes often send asbestos fibers into the air.
- Construction workers: Renovations or demolitions of older buildings may damage asbestos, increasing likelihood of exposure.
- Roofers: They may be exposed when removing shingles and other roofing materials made with asbestos.
- Power plant and industrial workers: These workers often come in contact with parts insulted with heat-resistant asbestos coatings.
- Shipyard workers: Vessels are known for containing parts covered in asbestos bow to stern.
Asbestos was once coveted for its ability to fireproof and strengthen almost anything that contained it. The mineral also was used in residential and commercial construction in myriad ways.
No amount of exposure is considered safe. The lengthy latency period (20-50 years) between exposure and a typical diagnosis often breeds complacency among many workers who ignore the threat.
It is critical for workers to take necessary precautions to guard against exposure. If you believe you may have been exposed, it’s important to tell your physician.
Early symptoms include:
- A lingering dry cough
- Breathing difficulties
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Unexplained fever
If you have these symptoms, ask for a chest X-ray that may help explain the problem. Tell your physician about the asbestos exposure, which might lead to more tests and a referral to a specialist.
Do not ignore the problem. The earlier an asbestos-related disease is diagnosed, the better chance of treating it effectively. One of the biggest problems with mesothelioma is that too often it is not diagnosed until it has spread throughout the chest cavity, which limits the treatment options.