Asbestos is a family of naturally occurring minerals that were utilized for its heat-resistant and anti-corrosive properties. This mineral group was used in construction, shipbuilding, automobiles, and even textiles. Though this mineral family has been historically considered beneficial, the discovery of asbestos’ harmful health effects has led to more restrictive usage of the material.
One of the health complications of asbestos exposure is asbestos pleural diseases. Pleural diseases are conditions that affect two layers of protective tissue that line the lungs. The inhalation of toxic substances such as asbestos creates irritation in the pleura and leads to pleural disease. This irritation can occur over decades, slowly causing scars and buildup of fluid and leading to cancers.
These asbestos particles build up in the lungs because the human body cannot break down asbestos fibers. The leading causes of asbestos pleural disease are the serpentine fiber chrysotile and the amphibole fibers crocidolite and amosite. The typical vector of exposure to these minerals comes from the breakdown of older construction materials, automobiles, and other asbestos-containing materials.
Exposure to asbestos that leads to asbestos pleural disease can come from a variety of sources, most commonly from older buildings and improperly protected workers. Some of the pleural diseases that can develop from asbestos exposure include:
These conditions can remain dormant for decades, with effects ranging from mild to severe symptoms.
Asbestosis is a pleural disease that arises from repeated scarring of the lung tissue by asbestos fibers. Symptoms of asbestosis include crackling sounds when breathing, shortness of breath, and pain while breathing.
Atelectasis is a condition that occurs from a complete or partial collapse of an area of the lung caused by deflation or filling of the alveoli. Atelectasis is very similar to pneumothorax in its symptoms and results. Both have symptoms of chest pain, a bluish tint to the skin known as cyanosis, and difficulty breathing.
By contrast, pneumothorax occurs when air pockets form in the chest cavity that exert force on the lungs causing one to deflate and collapse. The occurrence of pneumothorax and atelectasis is not exclusive to asbestos exposure, but they are highly likely to occur with other pleural conditions caused by asbestos exposure.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a recurring inflammatory pleural condition that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. The scarring caused by asbestos exposure can lead to COPD as well as exacerbate COPD conditions. Similarly, pleural fibrosis is a lung disease that occurs from repeated damaged, inflamed, and scarred lung tissue causing pain and shortness of breath.
One of the most famous asbestos pleural diseases is mesothelioma. This rare cancer commonly affects the pleura and is very often fatal. Mesothelioma is almost entirely associated with asbestos exposure and usually cannot be cured.
Pleural effusions are excessive fluid buildups in the lining of the lungs. While the pleura typically contains some fluid at all times to allow people to breathe normally, if too much fluid accumulates, the pleura can become irritated. Some subtypes of pleural effusions include chylothorax and hemothorax.
The chylothorax is an effusion where a type of lymphatic fluid known as chyle that forms in the small intestine fills the pleural space. Chylothorax often causes chest pains, and breathing problems, and can sometimes be a sign of pleural mesothelioma.
Hemothorax is a pleural effusion that occurs when blood fills the pleural cavity. Hemothorax can cause shallow breathing, chest pain, low blood pressure, and a rapid heartbeat.
Pleural plaques are white, chalky protein clumps of collagen that line the lungs. Pleural plaques are the most common pleural disease related to asbestos exposure. Pleural plaques are most commonly harmless and don’t require removal or treatment. Similarly, most patients with pleural plaques don’t have any symptoms. However, pleural plaques are highly useful as a diagnostic marker for exposure to asbestos and the risk of mesothelioma and other pleural diseases.
Pleural thickening is a condition that occurs when the lung lining becomes scarred by long-term irritation by foreign particles like asbestos. Pleural thickening leads to difficulty breathing and complications in lung health.
Pleurisy, also called pleuritis, is the inflammation of the pleural layers. Pleurisy is characterized by the inflamed pleura brushing against each other, leading to painful and difficult breathing. The main symptom of pleurisy is shortness of breath and chest pain. Pleurisy can also lead to purulent pleurisy, a condition where pus builds up in the pleural space. Pleurisy is usually a complication of other asbestos pleural diseases like asbestosis. However, unlike many other asbestos pleural diseases, pleurisy can actually be treated to the point of remission or even cure.
Asbestos pleural diseases are persistent. Even if the asbestos exposure ceases, health complications can still develop due to the irritation caused by dormant asbestos particles in the lungs.
If you have been exposed to any form of asbestos and have developed any cancers or health complications, including mesothelioma or asbestos pleural disease, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover the costs of medical expenses, pain, suffering, or lost wages. In order to file and prevail in your personal injury lawsuit, you will need the help of an experienced Personal Injury Attorney.
With their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Personal Injury attorney will be able to zealously advocate for you in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Additionally, since Personal Injury attorneys work on contingency, if you don’t win, you don’t pay.