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Asbestos Facts

• When asbestos fibers are inhaled, most fibers are expelled, but some can become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life. Fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation. Enough scarring and inflammation can affect breathing, leading to disease.

• The term “naturally occurring asbestos” refers to the mineral as a natural component of soils or rocks as opposed to asbestos in commercial products, mining or processing operations. Naturally occurring asbestos can be released from rocks or soils by routine human activities, such as construction, or natural weathering processes. If naturally occurring asbestos is not disturbed and fibers are not released into the air, then it is not a health risk.

• People are more likely to experience asbestos-related disorders when they are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos, are exposed for longer periods of time, and/or are exposed more often.

• Inhaling longer, more durable asbestos fibers (such as tremolite and other amphiboles) contributes to the severity of asbestos-related disorders.

• Exposure to asbestos can increase the likelihood of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant lung conditions such as asbestosis (restricted use of the lungs due to retained asbestos fibers) and changes in the pleura (lining of the chest cavity, outside the lung).

• Changes in pleura such as thickening, plaques, calcification, and fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) may be early signs of asbestos exposure. These changes can affect breathing more than previously thought. Pleural effusion can be an early warning sign for mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs).

• Most cases of asbestosis or lung cancer in workers occurred 15 years or more after the person was first exposed to asbestos.

• Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after the first exposure to asbestos.

• Asbestos-related disease has been diagnosed in asbestos workers, family members, and residents who live close to asbestos mines or processing plants.

• Health effects from asbestos exposure may continue to progress even after exposure is stopped.

• Smoking or cigarette smoke, together with exposure to asbestos, greatly increases the likelihood of lung cancer.

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