Lung disease from exposure to asbestos can be divided into three main types: 1) asbestosis, 2) disease of the lining of the lung (pleura), and 3) lung cancer.
- Asbestosis is a process of widespread scarring of the lungs.
- Disease of the lining of the lungs, called the pleura, has a variety of signs and symptoms and is the result of inflammation and the hardening (calcification) and/or thickening of the lining tissue.
- Lung cancer, either of the internal portions of the lungs or the outer lining (pleura).
All of the commonly available commercial forms of asbestos have been linked to cancerous and non-cancerous lung disease.
Asbestos-related lung disease occurred at very high rates toward the middle of the 20th century, when patients who were exposed decades earlier to asbestos eventually developed disease. British asbestos workers were among the first who were observed to have lung cancer related to asbestos.
Most current patients were once exposed to asbestos in:
- Homes with asbestos, either in the process of carrying, installing, or removing asbestos, or while cleaning items laden with asbestos dust.
Some workers have been exposed to high concentrations of asbestos in:
- Automotive repair.
- Launderers of asbestos-containing clothing.
Continuing sources of exposure are asbestos removal and general construction industries. The delay between exposure to asbestos and the development of cancer is generally 20 or more years.
The number of deaths from asbestosis has increased over the past two decades, but is believed to have plateaued due to increased awareness of the risks.
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