Asbestos is a colloquial term often used to describe six naturally occurring mineral fibers that contain long and narrow carbon fibers. All of these fibers are made up of very fine and long fibrous crystals which are held together by tiny microscopic ‘bonds’, which are released into the air when abrasion or other mechanical processes break down these fibers.
It was not until the early 1970s that people began to become aware of the dangers that asbestos exposure could pose to their health and, in particular, the lungs and lining of the lungs of unborn babies. Asbestos fibers are extremely dangerous for anyone who comes into direct contact with them or inhales them, and any pregnant woman should be careful about the type of work they do that may expose them to asbestos fibers. There are now numerous regulations regarding asbestos, most of which were put into place in the 1980s.
These regulations now require that all buildings have ventilation, heating, insulation, and windows and doors sealed so that asbestos fibers cannot escape. Also, new guidelines prohibit the use of asbestos in roofing materials, ceilings, floor tiles, and in some ceiling tiles.
While the new regulations are now in place, it is still important that anyone who has been exposed to asbestos realize what their risks are and know what the new regulations mean to them. The risks of asbestos exposure are many:
Asbestos fibers are extremely toxic to the lungs and the lining of the lungs of the fetus and in turn can cause a variety of lung complications such as pleural plaques, pulmonary edema (water in the lungs), adenomyosis (folliculitis), asbestosis (scarring of the lungs), emphysema, and pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the fibrous tissues). Any person with an active lung tumor that shows signs of cancer such as pleural effusions, pleural thickening, or polyps will need to have a lung biopsy and have it reviewed by a thoracic surgeon.
Asbestos fibers in the blood stream have been found in more than 400 people who had no sign of having lung disease. Asbestos fibers are also found in the remains of more than 150 people who had lung tumors but did not have any lung disease. Of the two thousand people with lung tumors, there is still no conclusive evidence that the presence of fibers in the remains is caused by asbestos exposure. The symptoms are still unknown and the only thing doctors know for sure is that the fibers are present in the blood stream of those who have developed these lung conditions.