Worldwide, about 125 million remain at the risk of exposure at the worksite. In the US alone, this number has reached 1.3 million. People at the risk of asbestos exposure are also prone to getting many different diseases, including mesothelioma. The latter is an uncommon but fatal type of cancer that happens when asbestos fibers reach the internal linings of your body, damage the healthy cells and mutate the cell DNA. Though it takes a considerable amount of asbestos exposure for mesothelioma to happen, limiting asbestos exposure goes without saying.
The scariest aspect of asbestos exposure is that the victim does not display any signs for a long time. Implying that even if you breathe in a considerable amount of asbestos fibers, you won’t report any symptoms of a medical condition. Therefore, it is often difficult for the victims to get an early diagnosis for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Normally, it takes 15 to 25 years for the victim to show the signs of asbestos exposure.
Care to know the signs of asbestos exposure? Below we will look at all of them.
1. Shortness of breath
Industrial workers are extremely prone to developing any asbestos-related diseases. These workers inhale the air-filled asbestos fibers or work with materials containing asbestos fibers. Due to their proximity to asbestos, workers often suffer from shortness of breath.
Shortness of breath happens because the internal linings get scarred with asbestos fibers. As time passes, most tissues outside a person’s lungs get replaced by scarred and damaged tissues. Gradually, it impacts the normal functioning of the lungs and causes shortness of breath.
Upon feeling shortness of breath, the victim should consult their doctor. If they get a mesothelioma diagnosis, filing a lawsuit and demanding compensation must be their priority. Mesothelioma treatment is extremely expensive, exrequiring thousands of dollars for the treatment. So, compensation received through a mesothelioma diagnosis is the only feasible way to pay for the cost.
Wheezing is another sign of asbestos exposure. It happens when there is inflammation in the lungs. It results in a whistle-like sound, especially upon deep breathing. If you don’t smoke and have no history of respiratory issues like asthma, you must not take this symptom lightly. Calling on a doctor may result in early disease diagnosis, immensely impacting your prognosis.
3. Swollen Fingertips
In half of the asbestos exposure cases, swollen fingers are a tell-tale sign. Swelling occurs in the tips of the fingers—also called clubbing. As of result of swelling, fingers appear rounder and broader.
4. Extreme exhaustion
Feeling tired and exhausted is another indicative sign of asbestos exposure. When you continuously feel fatigued and show other signs like swollen fingers, shortness of breath, etc., extreme fatigue can corroborate your asbestos exposure. Consulting a doctor and telling your condition in detail may result in early diagnosis of asbestos-related conditions, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
5. Chest and Abdominal Pain
Asbestos can cause issues at many locations in the body. In the case of mesothelioma, it can attack four different organs in the body—the abdomen, heart, lungs, and testes. Therefore, the signs may not stay limited to the lungs and the surrounding area.
Feeling pain in the chest and abdomen implies that the fibers might be attacking this area. More than 60% of pleural mesothelioma patients report pain in the chest. Similarly, 30% to 50% of the patients with peritoneal (abdomen) report feeling pain in the abdomen.
6. Dry cough
In normal circumstances, a dry cough helps clear the airways and throat. But having a dry cough persistently is a sign of an underlying condition such as mesothelioma cancer. It can be considered another indication of asbestos exposure. Tumor growth in the body, cancer treatment, and pleural effusion can cause dry cough.
This symptom is more prevalent in the early days of a cancer diagnosis. As the disease progresses, the dry cough becomes severe. Since dry cough is the symptom of many mild and non-fatal diseases, it is often brushed aside and not taken seriously. Doctors may diagnose dry cough as an infection in the chest, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Therefore, asbestos poisoning has the highest chance of going misdiagnosed or undiagnosed when you experience dry cough.
Why is it difficult to catch asbestos poisoning?
There are two primary reasons for the late diagnosis of asbestos poisoning. One is the resemblance of its symptoms with other less serious and non-fatal diseases. Symptoms like chest and abdominal pain, persistent cough, wheezing, etc., are not distinguishing and can be mistaken for other diseases.
Another reason is the long latency period of illnesses caused by asbestos exposure. A person might be exposed to asbestos during their youth, and it is only after 15 to 25 years and even more, in their old age, that they show any symptoms of mesothelioma. For instance, a person may develop a persistent cough even after 40 years of their initial contact with asbestos.
Who are the workers most at the risk of asbestos poisoning?
Asbestos was used in many consumer goods products due to its heat and chemical change resistance and insulation properties. Therefore, workers employed in the industries with the widespread use and manufacture of asbestos-containing products are most prone to asbestos poisoning. These workers include shipyard workers, construction workers, power and chemical plant workers, mechanics, etc.
Though many asbestos-containing products are no longer allowed, some companies still find a way to use asbestos as a raw material. The absence of strict legislation and loopholes in the current legislation gives leeway to these companies to use asbestos in producing various products.
Asbestos exposure is very challenging to trace as its signs do not really differ from other mild diseases. But if you have a history of working in industries known for the widespread use of asbestos-containing products, even the mildest signs should be taken seriously. You must immediately consult an expert for an early diagnosis. At the same time, seeking legal help and holding culprits responsible for their actions must be a priority too. It is your right to seek compensation for the pain inflicted on you and your family.