Federal laws regulate asbestos, a fibrous material, but it is still used in many industries today. People in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, exposed to asbestos may be at risk for various illnesses from inhaling the fibers. Stats show asbestos-related illnesses caused around 40,000 deaths in 2016, but the illnesses occur at different exposure levels.
Diseases caused by asbestos
Asbestos is primarily linked to mesothelioma, a cancer that causes tumors on the mesothelium, or lining, of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. It may take several decades to produce symptoms, because they lay dormant.
Asbestosis causes chronic lung inflammation and scarring from inhaling asbestos fibers, commonly from prolonged exposure. Similar to mesothelioma, the symptoms may not show for many years after the first exposure.
Lung cancer has a higher occurrence in mining and milling industries, and the risk increases by 4% each year. The fibers get trapped in the lung lining, which causes scarring. Patients with asbestosis or those who smoke have a greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Low-level asbestos exposure
Exposure commonly occurs in certain industries, such as shipbuilding, insulation, or automotive industries. However, it can be found in some household products and older structures that were built before the regulations were enacted. For example, there have been many mesothelioma claims made against talc powder, which contains asbestos and has been linked to mesothelioma cases. A worker could also expose other household members by bringing home particles on their clothes.
Research shows no amount of exposure is safe, but it may become more hazardous in certain situations. The particles pose a risk of getting ingested if they get disturbed, such as an explosion or drilling. However, the risk of getting an asbestos-related disease from a one-off short-term exposure. Studies by the EPA have found vermiculite, a type of asbestos that expands when heated, poses a low exposure risk.