Asbestos is a known human carcinogen. Despite being a naturally occurring substance, asbestos can cause multiple kinds of cancer. Currently, there is no established safe exposure level.
Anyone who has unprotected exposure to asbestos could potentially end up sickened decades later. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma, which is a cancer that starts in the organ linings. It also has an association with lung cancer and certain cancers that affect reproductive organs.
Those who realize that they are at increased risk of asbestos-related illnesses may do a better job of communicating with healthcare professionals and achieving a quick diagnosis if their exposure eventually leads to illness. These are three groups who are at increased risk of asbestos-related illnesses.
1. Workers who handled asbestos directly
Blue-collar workers in dozens of different industries may have handled asbestos at some point in the last few decades. Shipyard employees, plumbers, mechanics, steel mill and factory workers are among those at elevated risk of mesothelioma and other illnesses because of their vocational exposure to asbestos.
Even when the exposure was short-term or ended decades ago, workers may still and up sick and in need of medical support because of their job related to asbestos years before.
2. The family of such workers
The spouses and children of professionals who handle asbestos are at elevated risk of developing asbestos as well.
In recent years, the number of women who have never worked with asbestos getting diagnosed with mesothelioma and similar cancers has increased, likely due to secondary exposure because of their spouse’s employment. Workers may have brought home particulate asbestos on their skin, hair or clothing.
3. Those with geographic proximity to contaminated locations
People in all different professions could end up sickened by asbestos exposure simply due to living or working too close to a high-risk area. Restaurant workers and retail staff near a factory where people handle asbestos or office workers at businesses who never directly handle materials could end up sickened because of exposure caused by workers who may have carried asbestos with them out of the workplace.
Recognizing warning signs of asbestos exposure risk can help people more effectively screen themselves and their families for the often-deadly medical conditions caused by asbestos.