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What is asbestosis?

Posted on Monday 7th July 2014 by Graham

Asbestos is a killer that has claimed the lives of many thousands of workers over time. It has rendered just as many with serious long term illness. But how can a mineral so readily useful and accessible to man be so dangerous.

Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory condition that irreversibly damages lung tissue leading to long term respiratory problems and in severe cases will ultimately prove fatal. Following exposure to asbestos - a naturally occurring fibrous carcinogenetic mineral - progressive scarring of the lung tissue will increase undetected for often many years.

Asbestos had many commercial and industrial applications and was used extensively, particularly from the mid nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries. As a consequence, new cases of workers employed within the asbestos and associated industries are still being identified to this day.

Following exposure to asbestos, through either long term inhalation or contact, asbestos particles will begin to attack the body's immune system. The immune system in retaliation to this attack will release digestive molecules known as macrophages, whose function is to repel these invaders. However, because asbestos is a tenacious, fibrous mineral, the macrophages cannot evict them from the lungs, nor destroy them.

Depending on the length of exposure time and volume of particle inhalation, many thousands of asbestos fibres will be introduced into the respiratory system.

The immune system will continue to attack these deadly foreign bodies in its attempt to remove and destroy them, but in doing so they themselves, over time, create scar damage to the lung tissue. This continual process, this ongoing battle, after many years will result in either asbestosis or other asbestos related diseases, including;

  • Lung cancer,
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Mesothelioma

The initial effects of asbestos exposure usually become apparent through signs of persistent respiratory problems. Indicators of asbestos related diseases may include;

  • Persistent coughing
  • Constant shortness of breath
  • Chest pains

Medical tests used in the diagnosis include, scans, x-ray and lung functionality assessment. Although incurable, asbestosis will require correct management and continual monitoring; in order alleviate its impact on daily life.

Although many of us in the UK, and the wider developed world, will have come into contact with asbestos at sometime during their life; it is prolonged exposure – over many years – that causes the most severe problems. Now generally banned in modern society, this deadly mineral does still remain in some older buildings and facilities. Progressive removal of these remaining, yet still deadly fibres is ongoing. However, these activities are strictly controlled and only carried out by trained and licensed operatives.

Greater awareness regarding the risks associated with asbestos, and the training of both management and personnel involved will improve mortality rates and lower the number of cases of asbestosis and other associated lung diseases. At the moment, the legacy of asbestos remains with us, but it is a diminishing risk.

For all your needs on asbestos and the training we provide visit the Asbestos Training Limited website and find the training that suits your needs.

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