Asbestos is an umbrella term for a group of six naturally occurring minerals that together, create a known carcinogen. It is also a serious health hazard affecting countless Americans. Most Americans will undergo exposure to asbestos at some point during their lives. However, if you make your living in certain industries or work environments, your risk of prolonged exposure to asbestos, and suffering serious health complications as a result, may be far higher than that of the average American.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the dangers associated with asbestos exposure are well-documented, so much so that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned all use of the substance back in 1989. While the ban has certainly reduced the nationwide risk of asbestos exposure, many workers still undergo exposure to the substance. When they do, serious health issues can arise.
Who is at risk of exposure?
Because asbestos was, at one point, common in building, mining, shipbuilding and automotive-part manufacturing, your chances of prolonged exposure to asbestos may be higher if you make your living, or if you made your living, in one of these industries. Estimates suggest that millions of American employees underwent exposure to asbestos since the 1940s and that asbestos exposure was also an issue for workers involved in cleanup efforts in New York City following Sept. 11, 2001.
What are the health risks of exposure?
Research shows a clear link between prolonged asbestos exposure and the development of certain cancers, among them mesothelioma, which is a relatively rare form of the disease that impacts the membranes lining the abdomen and chest. Evidence also suggests that a link exists between asbestos exposure and developing a number of other forms of cancer, among them stomach, colorectum and pharynx cancers. Asbestosis, which is a condition that can lead to permanent lung damage, is also a concern for those exposed to asbestos over time.
If you have reason to believe that your health may suffer because of prolonged exposure to asbestos, schedule a comprehensive physical with your physician.