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Know the signs of workplace asbestos exposure

Exposure to asbestos, which most commonly occurs in the workplace, can lead to serious health problems even decades later. Prior to the 1970s, floor tiles, cement, installation and other building materials typically included this material.

If you or a loved one had past asbestos exposure, learn more about asbestosis, a chronic lung disease.

Symptoms of asbestosis

Asbestosis results from tiny inhaled fibers that become embedded in the lungs and lead to scarring. The tissue becomes stiff and fluid builds up, causing breathing difficulties. Between 10 and 40 years later, individuals who once had asbestos exposure may develop shortness of breath, chest pain or tenderness, clubbed fingertips and toes, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite and a dry cough.

Commonly exposed occupations

Asbestosis may affect individuals who worked these or similar environments in the late 1970s or earlier:

  • Shipyards
  • Residential and commercial construction
  • Refineries and mills
  • Railyards
  • Airplane and auto garages
  • Mines

The longer the person worked in one of these industries, the higher the risk of exposure and the more severe the disease will likely be. Asbestosis may also affect family members of the exposed individual and those who lived close to the mine.

Treatment for asbestosis

Left untreated, asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a cancer of the tissue surrounding the lungs. Lung cancer is also more common among people who have asbestosis. Exposure raises the person’s risk for laryngeal and ovarian cancer.

Although no cure exists for this condition, people who have advanced asbestosis may benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy. Some individuals may require a lung transplant. In addition, those diagnosed with this disease should quit smoking, get an annual flu vaccine and limit additional exposure.

Today, employers must take safety measures to eliminate asbestos exposure. However, individuals who worked at Tennessee Eastman or other local industrial firms may still be susceptible to asbestosis from earlier exposure. Some people may be eligible for legal damages.


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