Asbestos diseases

Asbestos latency period

Asbestos disease in Australia may not peak until sometime in the next decade. The average latency period, which refers to the period between first exposure to asbestos and development of disease, in the case of mesothelioma, is about 35 years. Asbestos related disease rarely develops earlier than 10 years after first exposure. Asbestos exposure may also increase the risk of developing lung cancer and cancer of the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts in smokers.

Asbestos disease is not infectious.

The Lungs

The lungs are the main organs of the respiratory system, the body’s system for breathing. The respiratory system also includes the nose, mouth, trachea (windpipe) and airways to each of the lungs. There are the large airways to the lungs, called the bronchi, and the small airways to the lungs, called the bronchioles.

When you inhale (breath in) air goes into the nose or mouth, down the trachea and into the bronchi and bronchioles. Tiny air sacks at the end of the bronchioles, called alveoli, pass oxygen into the blood and collect carbon dioxide, the waste gas. The carbon dioxide is released from the body and into the atmosphere when you exhale (breath out).

The lungs are like 2 large sponges which rest on the diaphragm – a wide, thin muscle which assists with breathing.

The pleura is a thin sheet of tissue which covers the lung. The inner layer of the pleura (called the visceral layer) is attached to the lungs and the outer layer (called the parietal layer) lines the chest wall and the diaphragm. The pleura is surprisingly tough and also well supplied by nerve fibres. There is normally a small amount of fluid between the 2 layers which facilitates the expansion of the lung and allows the lungs to move smoothly against the chest wall as the chest expands when you breathe.

The following is an overview of asbestos diseases, however anyone with an asbestos related disease should seek the advice of medical practitioners and be guided by them as to the appropriate investigation and treatment. The information that follows is not meant as a substitute for information from medical practitioners but merely as a guide to the understanding of various asbestos related diseases.

Types of Asbestos Disease:-

  • Pleural plaques (with or without chest pain)
  • Pleural effusion
  • Asbestos-related pleural disease
  • Pleural thickening
  • Rounded or folded atelectasis
  • Asbestosis
  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung Cancer
  • Other cancers such as kidney, laryngeal and oesphogeal cancer

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