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Hazards of Asbestos Exposure

Inhalation of asbestos fibers and silica dust has been found to cause serious respiratory diseases and other health problems. Asbestos fibers and silica dust may remain in the lungs and accumulate after prolonged exposure.

At worst, asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma (cancer of the chest and abdominal linings), lung cancer and asbestosis (irreversible lung scarring).

Common cancers that are caused by products with asbestos can include squamous cell, small cell, oat cell, adenocarcinoma, bronchoalveolar, non-differentiated carcinoma and others.

Similarly, silica can cause irreversible lung scarring (called silicosis) and lung cancer. The risk of asbestos- and silica-related diseases increases with the length of exposure; however, doctors and scientists have not yet been able to establish a threshold level for safe exposure to either substance. Workers and other individuals may develop mesothelioma symptoms no matter how long they were exposed to asbestos.

Those who develop mesothelioma, asbestosis or silicosis have usually been exposed to airborne asbestos or silica for a number of years, but the symptoms of these diseases may not manifest until 15 to 40 years after the first exposure. Asbestos and silica exposure also increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

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