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ASBESTOS Related Diseases
- This is the first of three major lung diseases.  It is a chronic (long-term) disease in which the alveoli are damaged by scar tissue.  The scar tissue replaces the normal cells and the lung's ability to absorb oxygen is reduced.  A person suffering from asbestosis will eventually feel short of breath.  At first this will be mild.  In some people the disease will progress, shortness of breath becoming a constant
feature and eventually leading to death from failure of the lungs.  The disease will not be as severe if only small amounts of asbestos were inhaled.  Asbestosis is a potentially serious, incurable disease that, in its most severe form, can be fatal.

Lung Cancer - Asbestos-related lung cancers are virtually identical to the lung cancer that cigarette smokers develop.  It is important to emphasize that the lung cancers caused by breathing asbestos dust have a dose response just like asbestosis.  The more asbestos dust the individual breaths, the larger his risk of lung cancer becomes.  Another similarity is the latency period for the lung cancer to develop.  At least 10-15 years must pass after the first exposure to asbestos before any lung cancer is caused.

Mesothelioma - this is an uncommon cancer that affects the lining of the lung or the lining of the abdomen.  It occurs exclusively in people exposed to asbestos dust.  The main symptom experienced by an afflicted person is pain in the chest or abdomen for no apparent reason.  This cancer is always fatal, often with rapid deterioration and death within one year following the diagnosis.  At this time, there is no treatment, and no cure.  Like the other two asbestos diseases, mesothelioma has a latency period and a dose response.

Pleural Plaques - Asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma are the three major lung diseases caused by asbestos dust.  Pleural plaques, while not as serious as the other three, are also caused by the inhalation of asbestos dust.  This condition is characterized by thickening of the lining of the lung, known as pleura.  Pleural plaques are not cancer, and don't progress to mesothelioma or any other asbestos disease.  They cause in the vast majority of cases, no symptoms of any kind.  Their presence on a chest x-ray simply denotes that a person has been exposed to asbestos in the past.

Closing Statement
Providing an asbestos free environment has been a major concern for building owners and employers in recent years.  Asbestos is virtually everywhere.  No one knows exactly how many buildings contain asbestos, but some estimate that more than 1 /2 of the buildings in Detroit alone have asbestos in them.  The majority of the structures being built before the mid 1970's when it was not known to be a lethal carcinogen, used asbestos for fireproofing and insulation.  The EPA has recommended the removal of all asbestos containing materials as being the best solution; remove the source, remove the worry.  The choice of an asbestos abatement contractor should be based on a screening process to select the most qualified company.  This process is necessary for your peace of mind in an area where owners can hardly afford substandard, unsafe performance.