Asbestos Health Effects

The inhalation of airborne asbestos fibres is known to cause a number of mainly lung related diseases and cancers. The scientific evidence of exactly what level of asbestos exposure causes asbestos related diseases is unclear. It must be assumed therefore that the more fibres breathed in, the greater the risk to health. Asbestos containing materials in good condition can be considered of minimal risk to health. The four identified asbestos diseases are:

Pleural Plaques

The Pleura is the outer envelope in which the lungs are contained.

Pleural Plaques are slight swellings beneath the outer pleura.

They do not produce any symptoms and are sometimes seen on chest x-rays resulting from a brief exposure to asbestos.

They can lead to further complications and possibly lead onto more serious asbestos diseases.


Asbestosis is a serious, chronic, non-cancerous respiritory disease.

Inhaled asbestos fibres aggrevate lung tissues, which casuses them to scar.

Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry crackling sound in the lungs whilst inhaling.

asbestosis1 asbestosis2

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is a malignant tumour of the lungs air passages. The tumour grows through the surrounding tissues invading and obstructing the air passages

The symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pains and anaemia.


Smokers who are exposed to asbestos are at a proportionally higher risk of lung cancer.

Smoking whilst working with asbestos can increase the risk of developing lung cancer by 50 – 90 times.

Mesothelioma – cancer of the lung lining or abdominal cavity

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells that make up the lining around the outside of the lungs and inside the ribs. Or around the abdominal area.

The cancer is very invasive and spreads quickly, eventually crushing the lungs so that the patient cannot breathe.


Mesothelioma is painful and always fatal, it can be caused by very low exposure to asbestos and is not directly related to dose.

Mesothelioma can take 30 – 40 years to develop.

Mesothelioma Cancer symptoms include unexplainable weight loss, shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, hoarse voice, short breath, chest pains, cough, back pain and recurring fever. It should be noted that these symptoms vary from one patient to another.

There is usually a long delay between exposure and the onset of disease. This can be anywhere between 15 and 60 years.