Asbestos is a mineral substance that humans have used for centuries for a wide array of purposes. In modern industrial settings, asbestos can play a role as an insulator or a fire retardant. Most people will have some amount of asbestos exposure in their lifetimes.
However, there are certain people who are more at risk than others for asbestos exposure and asbestos-related illnesses. Who has the most risk for developing an asbestos-related medical condition?
Certain professions have a correlation with asbestos exposure
One of the most common reasons people have routine exposure to asbestos is that they work with it. Professionals ranging from mechanics who have worked on brakes to those who do home repairs may find themselves exposed to asbestos on the job.
Those remodeling older homes may encounter asbestos in flooring products or even certain feelings. Those working in shipyard settings, especially those working to build or repair the vessels, could wind up exposed as well.
Other high-risk professions for asbestos exposure include:
- first responders, like firefighters
- factory workers
- power plant employees
- textile or steel mill workers
Anyone who handled asbestos on the job, as well as their family members, will have an elevated risk of asbestos-related diseases later in life.
Do certain people have more medical risk from asbestos than others?
Research on asbestos makes it clear that there is no specific safety limit for asbestos exposure. Some people with moderate levels of daily exposure on the job never develop a medical condition. Others with only a few low-level exposure events might eventually develop lung cancer or mesothelioma.
There are certain medical factors that may increase someone’s risk of developing mesothelioma. Congenital or acquired respiratory conditions are an example. Those born with asthma may be more sensitive to the impact of inhaled asbestos. Smokers are also at elevated risk of developing serious conditions like lung cancer after asbestos exposure. Additionally, there is a specific genetic mutation, known as the germline mutation in BAP1 that increases your likelihood of having a strong reaction to asbestos exposure.
Recognizing your risk for asbestos exposure and the development of related diseases can help you screen yourself for symptoms and take timely action if you notice the signs of an asbestos-related medical condition.