What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral mined from the Earth. It is found in rock formations, and it is present in the air, water, and food chain in a multitude of ecosystems. The term "asbestos" broadly refers to six groups of naturally occurring mineral fibers. It offers heat and chemical resistance, as well as fireproofing capabilities, making it a great component in insulation and other products that need resistance to extreme temperatures, or where there is a high risk for fire.
These heat-resistant and fireproofing properties, coupled with the duration and flexibility of the fibers, led asbestos to be used in thousands of different products. Despite the remarkable commercial qualities, experts have determined that it is one of the most dangerous of all natural materials on earth. The fibers, when inhaled, bury themselves in the lungs and can cause disease.
How Does Asbestos Exposure Lead to Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer?
Small airborne fibers can be easily inhaled by workers, or others breathing air contaminated by fibers. Inflammation results when the body attempts to break down and eliminate these particles from the lungs. The particles can reach the smallest and most distant parts of the lungs. These fibers cannot be removed by coughing. They remain in the tissue inside the chest, where they cause inflammation which can lead to the development of mesothelioma.
Asbestos particles damage the lungs by causing the formation of scar tissue. Those who have been exposed to it have a seven times greater risk of developing lung cancer than those who have not been exposed. While asbestos is related to other forms of cancer, the three most prominent illnesses caused by exposure are mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis (non-cancerous scarring of the lungs).