When you think of the health risks of asbestos exposure, you likely think of mesothelioma, incurable cancer that attacks the lining of your chest and stomach. While it is true that breathing in the microscopic fibers asbestos produces when it deteriorates can lead to mesothelioma, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
As the Cleveland Clinic explains, asbestos is an inherently dangerous natural mineral that possesses outstanding resistance to heat, fire and noise. Consequently, many construction products, including the following, contain asbestos:
- Cement roofing, siding and shingles
- Furnace, pipe and duct insulation
- Joint compound
- Soundproofing materials
- Floor and ceiling adhesives and tile
Many household products, including the following, likewise contain asbestos:
- Fireproof or fire-resistant products such as stovetop pads, blankets and curtains
- Some paints, adhesives and coatings
- Some attic insulation
- Artificial embers and ashes in gas fireplaces
- Some garden products
How asbestos breaks down
Unlike most materials that eventually deteriorate into dust, asbestos forms microscopic fibers when it breaks down. You breathe in these fibers without even knowing it. You can also ingest them because they accumulate on your clothing and shoes, thereby easily spreading to anything you put into your mouth, including smoking materials, utensils, cups, glasses and even your food itself.
Over time, asbestos fibers build up in your body, resulting in such serious illnesses as the following:
- Lung cancer
- Gastrointestinal tract cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Throat cancer
- Pleural effusion
Early symptoms of an asbestos-related disease, such as shortness of breath or other respiratory distress, mimic those of other diseases. Therefore, it may take years before your doctor can conclusively diagnose your real condition. Unfortunately, by the time this occurs, your cancer or other diseases may have progressed to the point of incurability.