Understanding Non-Cancer Illnesses Caused By Asbestos

Asbestos refers to a group of six, needle-like silicate minerals that are naturally occurring in the human body. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), asbestos is widely recognised as a health hazard, causing a myriad of health problems to the human body. In fact, asbestos is best known to cause Mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that is caused by inhaled asbestos fibres and forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. However, asbestos can also cause a lot of health problems that are not cancer as well. In this article, we will discuss three common non-cancer asbestos-related illnesses. They are asbestosis, pleural effusions and pleural plaques


Asbestosis is an incurable, chronic lung disease that is caused exclusively by prolonged inhaling of asbestos fibres. It can make breathing progressively harder for you. Asbestos is not a type of lung cancer, though it does have similar symptoms as to mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath and dry cough. As asbestosis usually requires years of regular asbestos exposure, it can take decades before you are diagnosed with it. This can be deadly as usually asbestosis is an indication of an increased risk of developing asbestos-related cancer. Asbestosis is a contributing cause of death for over 1,000 people in the United States each year.

Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion occurs when fluid builds there is an unusual fluid around the lung. There are many medical conditions that can possibly lead to this, but they are commonly associated with asbestos-related illnesses. Due to the exposure to asbestos, the inhaled fibres caused inflammation and swelling of the pleura, which increases the fluid inside the chest cavity. This can cause major constriction to the lungs, leading to pleural effusions. Although pleural effusions are not life-threatening, they can cause severe pain and difficulty in breathing. There are several options available to drain the fluid so that the lungs can function properly. This includes palliative thoracentesis, catheter placement, pleurodesis, video assisted thoracoscopic surgery and shunt placement.

Pleural Plaques

Pleural plaques are calcified build ups around the pleural membrane. They are the most common symptom of asbestos exposure, and people suffering from pleural plaques are usually asymptotic. Although pleural plaques are not cancerous and do not directly lead to cancer, they can be an indication of a higher risk for cancer.

How to Avoid These Illnesses?

The most straightforward and simple way to avoid these three, non-cancerous but dangerous, asbestos-related illnesses is to make sure that the air you are breathing is free of asbestos. If you believe that your work or home area has asbestos, contact Iris Environmental Laboratories for an asbestos test and inspection today! Iris Environmental Laboratories is nationally accredited by NVLAP, and NY-ELAP/NJ-DEP. We have a team of certified and highly trained field experts who specialized in asbestos inspection and testing.