Health Effects

What are the health effects?

Significant exposure to asbestos will increase the risk of asbestosis or mesothelioma and nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, including asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and pleural effusions.

Asbestos Exposure

Because asbestos fibers are naturally occurring and extremely aerodynamic, virtually everyone has the potential to be exposed to asbestos. To be a significant health concern, asbestos fibers must be inhaled at high concentrations over an extended period of time. Asbestos fibers then accumulate in the lungs. As exposure increases, the risk of disease also increases. Therefore, measures to minimize exposure and consequently minimize accumulation of fibers will reduce the risk of adverse health effects.

Asbestos Diseases

As asbestos fibers accumulate in the lungs, several types of diseases may occur. Asbestosis is a scarring of the lung tissue. This scarring impairs the elasticity of the lung and hampers its ability to exchange gases. This leads to inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. Asbestosis restricts breathing leading to decreased lung volume and increased resistance in the airways. It is a slowly progressive disease with a latency period of 15 to 30 years.

The next type of disease attributed to asbestos exposure is Mesothelioma. It is a cancer of the pleural lining. It is considered to be exclusively related to asbestos exposure. By the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal. Similar to other asbestos related diseases, mesothelioma has a longer latency period of 30 to 40 years.

What is Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is an uncommon, but no longer rare, cancer that is difficult to diagnose and poorly responsive to therapy. Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos related diseases. 

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What is Mesothelioma?

A layer of specialized cells called mesothelial cells lines the chest cavity, abdominal cavity, and the cavity around the heart. These cells also cover the outer surface of most internal organs. The tissue formed by these cells is called mesothelium.
Mesothelioma was recognized as a tumor in the late 1700’s. However it was not until much later, in 1960, that this particular type of tumor was described in more detail and even more importantly, its association with asbestos exposure was recognized.
Although the disease is much more commonly seen in 60-year-old men, it has been described in women and early childhood as well. The cause of the disease is not so well understood in these latter two groups, but there is some evidence of possible asbestos exposure for some of these cases as well.

About three-fourths of mesothelioma occurrences start in the chest cavity and is known as pleural mesothelioma . Another 10% to 20% begin in the abdomen and is called peritoneal mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma , starting in the cavity around the heart, is very rare. The covering layer of the testicles is actually an outpouching of peritoneum into the scrotum. Mesothelioma that affects this covering of the testicles is quite rare.

What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis disease is a serious lung inflammation caused by asbestos exposure that could lead to Mesothelioma.

What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and virtually indestructible. The asbestos fibers can easily flake off and are small enough to be completely inhaled deep into the lungs. When they are inhaled into the lung, the lung’s defense cells try to destroy the asbestos fibers, but the body’s defense mechanisms cannot break down asbestos. The result is that the asbestos fibers remain in the lungs and cause scarring and the inflammation continues for decades. This thickening and scarring prevents oxygen and carbon dioxide from traveling between the the tiny air sacs of the lungs and into the blood stream, so breathing becomes much less efficient. In people who develop Asbestosis, the inflammatory process continues to progress, fueled by the indestructible asbestos fibers even after the exposure to asbestos has ceased.


Asbestosis is a slowly progressing disease that will show no symptoms for 10 to 30 years. The early symptoms of Asbestosis typically include shortness of breath, coughing, a dry crackling sound while inhaling and chest pain.

Health Effects of Pleural Plaques Caused by Exposure to Asbestos

Pleural plaques are spots of typically-calcified scar tissue that can be found on a person’s diaphragm or, in certain instances, on the ribcage. If you were frequently exposed to asbestos in your past, pleural plaques are the most likely asbestos-related issue to be diagnosed with.

As with many asbestos-related health issues, most problems that result don’t typically appear until 20 years or more after initial exposure, making them difficult to diagnose.

Symptoms of Pleural Plaques

In many instances, pleural plaques are without symptom and the good news is that pleural plaques are benign and will not develop into cancer over time, but their symptoms can be somewhat problematic for patients — symptoms and health effects of pleural plaques include:

Trouble Breathing

Do you give out out breath easily, even while completing simple tasks? Depending on their size, pleural plaques can restrict the amount of air your lungs are able to take in, limited your ability to exercise, and much more.

Chest Pain

Does your chest area feel tight? Do you experience any sustained pain? Typically, that pain can be even more pronounced when you cough, sneeze or breath deeply.

And More

Pleural plaques should be taken seriously, because while by themselves, they don’t possess life-threatening potential, they could be an indicator of a larger problem, such as mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

It’s important that you receive the problem testing and guidance from a medical professional on how to best deal with a diagnosis.

EMSL Analytical, Inc. provides asbestos testing to clients throughout the United States in our laboratories. Consult with us today and get the results you need to protect your family, employees and guests.

Symptoms of Pleural Thickening from Asbestos Exposure

The pleura is the lining that coats your lungs, providing a layer of added protection. It is a serous membrane. Certain lung diseases can increase the overall thickness of the pleura, which frequently is a direct result of some sort of trauma or irritation.

Pleural thickening, unlike pleural plaques, aren’t singularly caused by exposure to asbestos, however, many cases are directly linked. Asbestos is tiny material that cannot be caught by the lung’s natural filtration system due to its microscopic size — they can come to rest in the body, causing inflammation, which can result in all kinds of health issues, including mesothelioma.

Health Effects of Pleural Thickening

Trouble Breathing & Shortness of Breath

The thickening of the membranes can constrict the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing. You can experience this strain on your breath during exercise, or even while working to complete simple tasks.

Lingering Cough

Coughing and wheezing are also the health effects of pleural thickening. Coughing fits can occur suddenly and without warning, and can often be a present possibility at all times.

Chest Pain

Pain in your chest is never anything to ignore -- such as the case with those who have been repeatedly exposed to asbestos in past work or home environments. Pleural thickening can get thick enough to cause discomfort.

And More

Certain medications available by a prescription from a trusted medical professional can often help deal with the symptoms of pleural thickening and COPD. Speak to your family doctor and construct a plan to help deal with these issues.

Testing for asbestos has never been more important. As you can see, the results of exposure can be extremely problematic. Speak with an associate at EMSL Analytical, Inc. today and ask about our asbestos testing solutions available to clients throughout the United States.

Health Effects of Pleural Effusions

Fluid that builds up in between the lungs and your chest cavity is known as a pleural effusion. Pleural effusions can cause considerable discomfort for patients diagnosed with the issues, and can be a precursor for future problems.

Unlike pleural plaques, pleural effusions don’t solely resort from long-term exposure to asbestos in the workplace or at home, however, asbestos is considered a leading cause of pleural effusions, along with congestive heart failure, adverse reactions to drugs and more.

Symptoms of Pleural Effusions

If you currently suffer from the following symptoms, it might be time to ask your medical professional about your risk of a pleural effusion: shortness of breath, trouble breathing, dull or sharp pains in the chest cavity, coughing fits, frequent hiccuping and more.

Like pleural thickening, which is the thickening of the protective pleura membrane that coats your lungs, people suffering from a pleural effusion can also be symptom-free, which is why it is critical to report to your doctor any past exposure to asbestos in order to aid in diagnosis.

How to Treat & Test for Pleural Effusions

X-rays of the chest cavity is the sure-fire way to officially diagnosis a pleural effusion in patients reporting those symptoms. Doctors can also run physical tests and checks such as tapping on the chest to make a diagnosis, which can also signify further health-related issues such as cancer.

Depending on the cause of the effusion and its size, treatment will be needed. Certain minor, non-invasive treatment options are available — for others, a drain must be inserted into the cavity to remove fluid. The latter option might even require a surgical procedure and possible hospitalization.

As you can see, no one wants to suffer from symptoms of untreated asbestos. Test now, and receive fast, accurate asbestos testing results from EMSL Analytical.