Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs naturally in the environment as fibers which has been linked to mesothelioma and other cancers. It can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope and is resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and does not conduct electricity. This mineral is a silicate compound and can be divided into two major groups:
- Serpentine asbestos
- Amphibole asbestos
Serpentine asbestos includes the mineral chrysotile, which has long, curly fibers that can be woven. Chrysotile is the form that has been used most widely in commercial applications.
Amphibole asbestos includes the minerals actinolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and amosite. Amphibole has straight, needle-like fibers that are more brittle than those of serpentine asbestos and are more limited in their ability to be fabricated.
These fibers have been used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of industrial and household products in the United States and around the world.
Connection to Mesothelioma Cancer
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of the fibers can lead to an increased risk of:
- lung cancer
- mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity
- asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.
The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of asbestos fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke.
People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of the fiber for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20, 30, 40 to even 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
Most people exposed to small amounts of the fiber, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs.
The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. The material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.
For more on mesothelioma and asbestos, please visit the links below:
- An Overview
- Asbestos Connection
- Exposure to Asbestos
- Signs and Symptoms
- Diagnosis/Staging and Treatment
- Go To Asbestos
- Asbestos & Mesothelioma News
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