Asbestosis

  • Definition

    Asbestosis is a respiratory disease brought on by inhaling asbestos fibers.


    Alternative Names

    Pulmonary fibrosis - from asbestos exposure; Interstitial pneumonitis - from asbestos exposure


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause scar tissue (fibrosis) to form inside the lung. Scarred lung tissue does not expand and contract normally, and cannot perform gas exchange.

    The severity of the disease depends on how long the person was exposed to asbestos and the amount inhaled. Often, symptoms and lung fibrosis do not occur and are not noticed for a period of 20 years or more after the asbestos exposure.

    Asbestos fibers were commonly used in construction before 1975. Asbestos exposure occured in asbestos mining and milling industries, construction, fireproofing, and other industries. In families of asbestos workers, exposure can also occur from particles brought home on the worker's clothing.

    Asbestos-related disease includes pleural plaques (calcification), malignant mesothelioma, and pleural effusion. Mesotheliomas may develop 20 - 40 years after exposure. Workers today are less likely to develop asbestos-related disease because of government regulations.

    Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing the disease.