What diseases are linked to asbestos exposure?

Exposure to asbestos may cause a variety of illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleurisy and lung cancer.

All Pennsylvania residents are exposed to some levels of asbestos, which is described as a mineral that is made up of bundles of fibers that can be turned into durable threads that are often resistant to chemicals, fire and heat. However, only those who work with it often are really at a risk for becoming ill. The National Cancer Institute states that the annual consumption of asbestos has dropped to 360 metric tons thanks to government regulations, but some people are still experiencing health repercussions due to their exposure to the six naturally occurring minerals that fall into this category. It can take 10 to 40 years for an asbestos-related disease to be diagnosed due to the late onset of symptoms.


Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelial lining of the heart, lungs and stomach. It is a fairly rare form of cancer, but being exposed to asbestos can increase a person's risk of developing this disease. Even family members of those who work with the mineral may have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma because of the remnants of the fibers brought into the home on clothes.


The small fibers that make up asbestos can get into a person's lungs and cause scarring. This scarring may lead to asbestosis, which is characterized by scarring and inflammation of the lungs. Typical symptoms of this disease include the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Phlegm-filled cough

Someone affected by asbestosis may have a reduced tolerance for physical activity.

Pleural Plaques

According to the Pleural Mesothelioma Center, roughly 50 percent of those exposed to asbestos end up developing pleural plaques. The pleura, which is the thin membrane that covers the lungs, collects deposits of collagen that create unique types of scarring. While this is not considered a predecessor of cancer, doctors may wish to run additional tests if these are discovered on a patient.


The pleura is made up of two layers. When these two layers are inflamed, it is often referred to as pleurisy or pleuritic. The inflammation can lead to the two layers rubbing together. This affliction can lead to sharp chest pains and difficulty taking deep breaths.

Lung Cancer

When the asbestos fibers are inhaled, there is a higher risk for developing lung cancer because the minerals are a known carcinogen. Two of the most commonly diagnosed forms of lung cancer, non-small cell and small cell, are linked to this exposure.

Pennsylvania workers may not realize the dangers they face at their job when they work with industrial items that contain asbestos. It can be beneficial to work with a knowledgeable lawyer if an asbestos-related disease is diagnosed.