If you are at risk of coming into contact with asbestos or may have done so in the past, you may be wondering if you will develop mesothelioma. Similarly, if someone in your family has developed mesothelioma despite working in conditions with little of the mineral, you may not be sure how much exposure was too much.
The reality is that no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. While it’s impossible to predict how much asbestos exposure will result in cancer or other illnesses, it’s known that any asbestos exposure can lead to complications down the line.
Asbestos exposure in the workplace, home and community
Asbestos exposure may happen at home, in the workplace or in your local community. Unfortunately, when fibers are in the air you breathe, they may be ingested or inhaled. Asbestos that gets trapped in the lungs is more likely to cause pleural mesothelioma, while other fibers may go on to cause other forms.
As those fibers irritate the body, they cause scarring and inflammation. Over time, that behavior makes it harder to breathe and may cause significant health problems.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have identified asbestos as a carcinogen, so there is no problem linking asbestos exposure to mesothelioma or other cancers. However, there still isn’t significant evidence to show how much exposure is too much. It is known that greater exposure is more likely to cause problems, but that doesn’t mean that minimal exposure won’t.
Who gets sick from asbestos exposure?
Most people who are exposed to asbestos don’t get sick, which is part of what makes it hard to know how exposure will affect someone. Studies have shown that those with heavier exposure over a longer period of time are more likely to fall ill, but it’s also possible for someone with only minimal exposure to end up with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other illnesses. These illnesses take decades to develop, so factors like the dose of the exposure, source of the exposure, size of the fibers and others have to be considered when deciding the level of risk an exposure causes.