What is asbestos and how does it cause cancer:
What is Asbestos:
Asbestos refers to a term used for six naturally occurring silicate minerals. The composition of all kinds of asbestos are long and thin fibrous crystals. Some asbestos have very thin fibers so that it can be woven. If the asbestos gets disturbed it can release very small micro particles in the air that can be very dangerous for our health.
The two most impressive qualities of asbestos are, it is a great electric insulator and heat resistance. Because of these reasons the world used asbestos as a building material for decades. When people got aware about the health issues and alot of people who were constantly exposed to the asbestos got sick and died then many developed countries stopped using asbestos as a commercial product. Long term exposure to asbestos or inhaling the microfibers of asbestos can lead people to lung cancer and many difficult lung diseases.
Source of Asbestos:
Archeological studies have shown the existence of asbestos in stone age. In the stone age asbestos was used for strengthening ceramic pots. Large scale mining and commercial use started in the 19th century.
The natural asbestos can be found as rock and it can be found in large deposits. It can also be found as a contamination of other natural minerals such as talc.
When asbestos was a commercial product that time it was mined all over the world, North America was one of the largest miners of asbestos. But still Russia and China exports asbestos to other countries.
Asbestos related diseases:
Scientific and medical studies proved that long term exposure or inhalation of the microfiber particles for a long time can lead us to serious health conditions, even cancer.
There are 4 types of cancers mainly happens:
Mesothelioma is one of the most dangerous cancer diseases that can happen for long time exposure to asbestos and this is the most deadly disease that can happen for inhaling asbestos.
Inhaling asbestos can lead people to lung cancer. It can take a very long time to develop but it takes only a few months to spread.
Ovarian cancer is another disease that can happen in the female body due to long exposure of asbestos.
The area of the throat can be affected very badly due to inhalation of asbestos that can lead to laryngeal cancer.
Asbestos related other diseases:
Asbestos can cause other diseases that are related to lungs.
Exposure to asbestos is not safe for our health, a minimum exposure can cause health issues. It can be very dangerous for those who are exposed and inhaling the microscopic particles over a long period and the results can be worse.
Everytime we inhale asbestos during exposure it can get stuck in our body. Our natural detox process cannot help to get rid of all the asbestos that we inhaled. The fiber gets stuck in our lungs and stays there forever and keeps continuing the damage process.
It is very important to stay away from damaged asbestos products because when they get distrubed it can release fibers that can be airborne and easy to inhale.
Asbestos related disease has a very long latency period. Most of the patients who have asbestos related disease are men and their age is around 60 or older than that. Their occupational exposure is the most specific reason for asbestos related disease.
High risk industries and professions:
There are several industries in high risk of exposure. Before the 1980s there were several products where asbestos was used because of its high levels of heat resistance and electric insulations.
There was a huge increase in constructions during the 19th centuries and asbestos was one of the cheap, popular and easily available building materials. Several employees were exposed while working with floor tiles, roof sheets and pipes that increased the chances of getting asbestos related diseases.
Firefighting agencies and the people working there are in risk of asbestos exposure because fire can damage the asbestos products and the fibers can become airborne.
Shipyard workers are one of the most vulnerable during work. In any ship asbestos can be found everywhere inside the vessel from fire pipe covering to vulves.
Industrial workers such as mechanics, machinery workers, foreman, machinery operators, incharge of industrial insulators are in high risk of exposure.
Asbestos removing agencies:
There are companies who are experts at removing asbestos from houses. They are at high risk all the time because asbestos can get into the air while removing.
How Asbestos cause cancer:
Asbestos inhaling process includes microscopic fibers that enter our body and never leave. It gets stuck in the walls of our lungs and stays there for over a long time. At first it starts inflammation and irritation and over time it can create cancer cells.
Formation of cancer cells:
Once asbestos fiber gets into our body, the fibers get stuck and after a long period it can create cancer cells. There are many ways how the stuck fibers can transform into cancer cells.
When we inhale asbestos fibers it gets stuck in the wall of our lungs called pleura. When our body cannot get rid of that it starts to create mesothelium to cover the fibers for protection purposes. After sometime DNA in the cells strats to alter with asbestos fibers and after the alteration the genetic mutation starts and healthy cells start to become cancerous.
The normal cell division process in our body is called mitosis. When asbestos fibers enter through the cell walls it starts to damage the DNA and cells become mutated. Through the mitosis process cell division continues and the mutated cells grow as well.
Types of cancer:
Asbestos can cause four types of cancers.
The cause of this deadly cancer is only asbestos. Usually mesothelioma occurs in organ lining. It can happen in the lung and abdomen but the most common development of this cancer is lung walls or pleura.
The noticeable symptoms of mesothelioma can be:
- Constant dry cough.
- Pain in the center of our chest.
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath.
Asbestos can get stuck in lung tissues and increase the risk of lung cancer. It is proved that almost 4% of lung cancer patients were exposed to asbestos during their work time. Lung cancer due to asbestos exposure can take a long time or more than a decade to show its symptoms but it takes only a few months to spread. Smoking increases the risk of asbestos related cancer more.
The symptoms of lung cancer are:
- Persistent dry cough.
- Chest infection.
- Pain while breathing or coughing.
- Constant tiredness.
- Blood in cough.
Asbestos contaminated talcum powder and ovarian cancer has a huge connection. It can through our reproductive system to ovaries and due to long exposure it can lead to ovarian cancer.
Understandable symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Excessive back pain.
- Fatigue or tiredness.
- Abdominal swelling.
- Weight loss.
- Changes in menstrual cycles.
Laryngeal cancer is a cancer that affects our larynx. Larynx is our voice box. During the asbestos inhaling process the fibers can get stuck in the larynx and it can create cancer tissues. Smoking and heavy alcohol use can fasten the risk of getting this type of cancer.
The symptoms of laryngeal cancer are:
- Constant sore throat.
- Swelling in neck.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Change in our voice.
There are other noncancerous diseases as well due to the exposure of asbestos.
Asbestosis is an inflammation in our lung tissues. Asbestosis can speed up the process of getting mesothelioma.
Pleurisy is an inflammation in pleura. The main reason for pleurisy is the inhaling asbestos fiber.
Protection from asbestos exposure:
Despite the reputation, we should be aware of asbestos exposure protection. You can buy the PPE kit, that includes respirator, disposable coveralls, rubber boots and gloves, protective eyewear. One should use an air monitor to understand the air quality.
People who are working with asbestos they should take full protection from this deadly mineral.