Asbestos Exposure and Autoimmune Disease Linked in Clinic’s Study

According to the Western News and reporter Bethany Rolfson, the Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby, Montana, has released its findings in a study of the relation of asbestos exposure and autoimmune diseases.  In mid August, the center announced that over the last 15 years, it has found substantial evidence to support a link between local asbestos exposure and autoimmune diseases. The study was completed  last fall and the CARD Clinic recently released its preliminary findings in the study.

As part of the three-fold project, research scientists from Idaho State University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and University of Montana, along with the CARD clinic, studied the effects of asbestos on the immune system, lung development and lung-scarring, and whether or not these health complications overlap.

According to Dusti Thompson, the CARD clinic outreach specialist, based on the preliminary results of the studied 950 self-reported autoimmune diagnoses, there may be as much as a 10-fold increase in risk for lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis in people exposed to amphibole asbestos.

“The immune system is supposed to attack foreign things like germs but sometimes it makes a mistake and starts attacking the body’s tissue,” Dr. Jean Pfau, the lead researcher on the autoimmune project, said. Pfau is a research scientist at the Idaho State University Department of Microbiology and Immunology who has been studying the effects of inhaled dusts on the immune system for 15 years. According to Pfau, Libby amphibole asbestos exposure has a stronger link to autoimmune disorders than other types of asbestos exposure.

Pfau said that autoimmune diseases and disorders can be really frustrating for patients and doctors because they are especially difficult to diagnose, and are often misdiagnosed as other diseases.  “You have a community where people are obviously getting sick,” Pfau said. “You have a huge amount of stress. You have a lot of people that are suffering and they don’t know why. They are really just struggling.”

There’s a long list of autoimmune diseases, but the most common caused by amphibole asbestos are lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis among much more, rarer autoimmune disorders, which are not classified as of yet. These diseases do tend to run in families, as a gene-environment interaction. Pfau noted that while susceptibility would probably continue through genes, she suspects that since the asbestos exposure isn’t there, it might not happen.  Unlike other autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes or thyroid diseases, Pfau said the autoimmune diseases caused by amphibole asbestos don’t attack specific parts of the body. The earliest symptoms of autoimmune diseases are severe fatigue, inflammatory symptoms and sore joints, according to the article.

The results of the study are not yet conclusive.  Please read the entire article by clicking on the above link.

Each year, approximately 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma. The disease is not predicted to peak until 2025. Asbestos exposure causes many diseases in the USA including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Lung cancer is the top cancer killer in the U.S. It’s diagnosed in more than 220,000 people a year and it killed nearly 160,000 people last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Asbestos exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you, a family member or a friend were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help. We have been assisting our clients with their asbestos cases since 1975. Please contact our office at 1-800-995-6991, for a free consultation.

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