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How does asbestos cause asbestosis and mesothelioma?

Most people in eastern Ohio understand that asbestos can pose an extreme risk to human health, but very few understand exactly how asbestos can cause illness or death. Contracting an asbestos-related illness usually requires the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Inhalation of asbestos fibers usually causes one of two serious illnesses: asbestosis or mesothelioma.

Asbestosis is an asbestos-related disease that is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The asbestos fibers cause scarring in the lung tissue, and this scarring reduces the ability of the lungs to draw oxygen from the atmosphere. Physicians normally employ computerized tomography, known popularly as a "CT scan," to search for asbestos fibers in the patient's lungs. Patients also take pulmonary function tests to measure how much air their lungs can absorb. Asbestosis cannot be cured, but modern medical science has developed several methods to manage the disease.

Mesothelioma is a far more serious lung disease that is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The asbestos fibers become lodged in the peritoneum, the tissue that covers the majority of a person's internal organs. Because the fibers have been inhaled, they most generally become lodged in the pleura, the tissue that surrounds the lungs. The asbestos fibers remained lodged in the lung tissue and eventually cause the development of cancerous tumors. Most people with mesothelioma cannot be cured of the disease, and it eventually results in death.

Very little asbestos is currently used in insulating products, but it still exists in the environment. For example, when older buildings are demolished, the contractor must take great care to prevent the dispersal of asbestos fibers. If the failure to follow existing federal and state regulations governing such activity is sufficiently flagrant, the behavior may be subject to criminal statutes. Anyone who is suffering from respiratory problems may wish to undergo an examination for asbestosis or mesothelioma. If a positive diagnosis is returned, there may be legal options.

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