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Asbestos was used for decades in construction and shipbuilding. If you or someone close to you has worked as a drywaller, pipefitter, or in the Navy, you may have been exposed to harmful asbestos fibers. Learn more >

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Asbestos Lawyer

I think that I was recently exposed to asbestos, what should I do?

While there is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos, it is unlikely that a recent short-term exposure to asbestos will cause you to develop a disease. As always, unnecessary exposure to known carcinogens should be avoided. Nearly everyone, however, is exposed to asbestos at some time in their life. In fact, there is some level of asbestos in the air we breathe everyday. That level, called “background”, is not usually considered to be enough to cause disease.

With asbestos, like many other carcinogens, the dose makes the poison. Exposure occurs when products containing asbestos are disturbed. If an asbestos-containing product is disturbed, microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air. Breathing those microscopic fibers is what creates the danger. Asbestos poses no risk unless the fibers are released and breathed.

Most people who are exposed to asbestos never become ill. Those who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with or around asbestos-containing products that are being disturbed. Those that are exposed to large amounts of asbestos fibers in the air are at risk for developing asbestosis, pleural disease, and several different types of cancer. Usually these diseases will not develop until many years after the exposure.

Studies have also shown that low levels of exposure to asbestos can cause the development of an extremely rare, almost always fatal, form of cancer called mesothelioma. For this reason, you should strive to avoid even small amounts of asbestos exposure. If you are exposed to small amounts of asbestos, however, your risk for this disease is still extremely slight. Most people who develop mesothelioma have significant occupational exposure to asbestos.

Once you find that you have been exposed to asbestos, there is not much you can do. Doctors cannot perform any treatments that will reduce your likelihood of developing a disease. The only disease-reducing measures that you can take are to quit smoking and to avoid additional exposure to asbestos. Studies have shown that asbestos works in conjunction with tobacco to greatly multiply an asbestos-exposed smoker’s risk for lung cancer. Quitting smoking will help to reduce this risk.
Despite the lack of treatment options, you should always tell your doctor about the asbestos exposure.

Although brief exposures to asbestos are unlikely to cause a disease, it would not be a bad idea to document your exposure. This can be done by noting the following information about your exposure: how you were exposed, the source or product that released asbestos, and how long you were exposed to the dust. In addition, you can take pictures of the product and the area in which you were exposed. This information might prove valuable if you ever develop an asbestos-related disease.

For more information about this topic or to learn more about the diseases caused by asbestos exposure try the following web-sites:

Marc Pinney – 06/13/2007

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