Older buildings that contain asbestos can put Pennsylvania and West Virginia residents and workers at risk of serious lung illnesses. Among them is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you were diagnosed, it’s important to know the relationship between asbestos and your condition.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that involves chronic bronchitis and emphysema. People with the condition have trouble breathing and symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, mucus production and more, which worsen over time. Smoking and exposure to environmental toxins, including asbestos, can cause COPD.
Complications of COPD include pneumonia, high blood pressure and heart attack.
What is the relationship between asbestos and COPD?
Asbestos is a substance that comprises a variety of toxic fibers. When a person is regularly exposed and breathes it in, over time, it gets inside the lungs and causes damage to the alveoli, the tiny air sacs that expel carbon dioxide and intake oxygen in the blood. With long enough exposure, over time, the alveoli develop scar tissue and suffer long-term damage. This leads to difficulty breathing and the development of respiratory illnesses. While a type of cancer known as mesothelioma is among the most common of these conditions, a person can develop other respiratory diseases as well, including COPD.
According to a 2020 study published in the journal Environmental Research and Public Health, it was found that there is a relationship between asbestos exposure and COPD when insulation material contained asbestos. The research also found that people who experienced asbestos exposure had a higher risk of chest infections.
The Mesothelioma Center claims that asbestos itself doesn’t cause COPD but that exposure that weakens the lungs increases the risks of developing the condition.
How is COPD diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose COPD by examining a patient and considering their personal and family medical history and symptoms. To test for COPD, a spirometer is used to measure the amount of air the individual can blow out and how quickly they can blow it out. Symptoms are compared with other lung illnesses such as asthma to rule them out.
Asbestos exposure can be deadly. Medical treatment is essential if you believed you’ve inhaled the substance.