How Does Asbestos Cause Cancer?
Some facts in figures
Asbestos is a major killer of Americans. Estimates reveal that by the year 2030, about 60,000 people would have been affected by asbestos cancer in the form of mesothelioma alone. In addition to this, 250,000 would be victims of other forms of cancer caused by asbestos. Between 1940 and 1980, 27 million Americans had been exposed to asbestos. About 2% of workers that work with textiles and mines and 10% of those who work in asbestos-containing gas masks contract mesothelioma.
Is all asbestos equally poisonous?
No. It has been pointed out earlier that asbestos in the form of finished products is not poisonous. Among the commonly used types of asbestos, chrysotile (white asbestos) accounts for 95% of all malignant pleural mesothelioma cases.
How can I be exposed to asbestos?
Asbestos fibers are small and light and can thus remain suspended in the air for a long time. People who are in the high-risk professions or come in frequent and prolonged contact with asbestos containing materials face the risk of inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers. Also the family members of these professionals face a risk of asbestos exposure since they may come in contact with the fibers that have stuck to the clothes, shoes, hair etc. of these professionals. This is known as Para occupational exposure. Another form of exposure is neighborhood exposure in which people who live/work near these asbestos-related operations face the risk of inhaling the fibers that get suspended in the air as a result of these operations.
What happens after I inhale asbestos?
Once inhaled, asbestos fibers penetrate into body tissues and stay there. Thus with every exposure, the risk of contracting asbestos cancer increases. They may remain the airways or the lungs thereby disrupting their function.
The consequences of ingestion or skin exposure have not been documented fully as yet.