Early Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
In this article we take a look at the serious issue of the early symptoms of asbestos exposure and what you can do about it.
It is quite remarkable – and not in a positive way – that the set of six silicate minerals known as asbestos remained in such widespread use across UK industry for generations. The material’s use in the UK was only definitively banned in 1999, cementing the 20th century’s status as “the asbestos century”.
Sadly, however, the issue of the very real and serious health risks that asbestos poses has not gone away with the departure of the substance from UK construction sites.
The legacy of “the asbestos century” is still thousands of deaths a year
The fact is, asbestos remains present in many buildings up and down the country, where it can be susceptible to being disturbed or released. Furthermore, with the initial inhalation or ingestion of asbestos frequently only leading to discernible asbestos-related disease decades after that first contact, new cases of such conditions are continuing to emerge from the era when asbestos was still widely used.
It should be no great surprise, then, that asbestos continues to be responsible for around 5,000 deaths every year in the UK.
Diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and ovarian cancer are all strongly associated with asbestos exposure. But if you suspect you may have come into direct contact with asbestos in the past, what are some of the possible early symptoms of asbestos-related disease that you should be aware of?
· Shortness of breath
Although asbestos does also cause diseases in other parts of the body, if you begin to develop an asbestos-related disease, there is a strong chance that at least some of your symptoms will be related to the lungs.
One of the classic indicators is shortness of breath, with such breathing difficulties arising from the scar tissue that inhaled asbestos fibres can cause to form in the lungs.
· Persistent dry cough
This is another symptom that sufferers of asbestos-related disease may experience, again as a consequence of the scar tissue that can form in the lungs over time following the inhalation of asbestos fibres.
This symptom can therefore be another good reason to arrange a doctor’s appointment, even if it has been many decades since your last direct contact with asbestos.
Inflammation of the lungs can cause the sufferer to make a whistling sound when they take a deep breath. When someone who doesn’t smoke suffers from wheezing, there might be particular reason to suspect this could be a sign of asbestos-related disease.
· Swollen fingertips
According to Healthline, visibly wider and rounder fingertips can be discerned in about half of all cases of asbestos poisoning. It is sometimes referred to as “clubbing”.
Feeling extremely tired is another symptom that – especially when accompanied with others in this list – could point to someone suffering from an asbestos-related condition.
So, what actions should you take in case of suspected asbestos exposure?
In the event that an incident occurs whereby you think you may have inhaled or ingested asbestos, it is extremely understandable that you might be worried about the potential health effects.
However, it is also important to maintain a sense of proportion. As explained by the charity Asthma + Lung UK, “in most cases, the risk to your health from short-term exposure to asbestos is very low.”
Your chances of developing an asbestos-related disease will probably be much greater if you have inhaled or ingested a significant quantity of the substance over an extended period of time, as opposed to a smaller amount in a one-off event.
If, however, you are worried that you could be at particular risk of developing an asbestos-related disease due to past exposure to the fibres, it would be a good idea to request that your doctor makes a note in your personal record about this.
Such a note might include information about dates when you may have come into contact with asbestos, as well as the degree and duration of the exposure in each instance, and the type of asbestos involved, if you know this.
Alternatively, you might be reading this as someone who has encountered asbestos in the past and is already experiencing symptoms like the above – in which case, we would definitely urge you to seek medical advice.
When you do have that conversation with your GP, you will be able to discuss with them what past or present jobs you have had that may have presented an asbestos risk, as well as whether you have lived with someone who worked in such a job, and any other situations in which you might have conceivably breathed in or ingested asbestos. From there, tests and contact with a specialist may be arranged.
As for if you are simply concerned about the possible presence of asbestos at a domestic or commercial property that you are responsible for, did you know that you can undergo an asbestos survey that could help put your mind at rest?
It is a service that we are proud to provide here at Asbestos 365, and you are welcome to get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help address the asbestos risk at your own site.