Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that can be separated into thin, durable fibers. Due to its unique physical properties, asbestos has been used in construction materials, such as roofing, insulation, and fireproofing, as well as in industrial applications like automobile brake linings and heat-resistant clothing. Despite its widespread use, the harmful health effects of asbestos exposure have been recognized for decades.
Asbestos exposure is strongly associated with several types of cancer, most notably:
Lung Cancer. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to lung cancer, often occurring in individuals who have had prolonged exposure to asbestos. Smoking in conjunction with asbestos exposure significantly increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
Mesothelioma. This is a rare and aggressive cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), but can also impact the lining of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma) and other organs. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, and its latency period can extend to several decades after exposure.
Asbestos-Related Colorectal Cancer. Recent studies have suggested a potential link between asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer, though the mechanisms behind this connection are not fully understood.
Asbestos-Related Laryngeal Cancer. Laryngeal cancer, which affects the voice box, is also associated with asbestos exposure. The risk of developing this cancer increases with the duration and intensity of exposure.
Mechanisms Behind Asbestos-Induced Cancer
The development of cancer from asbestos exposure is a complex process that involves various mechanisms. When asbestos fibers are disturbed, they can become airborne and inhaled into the respiratory system. These microscopic fibers are sharp and needle-like, making it difficult for the body to expel them. Over time they can become embedded in the lung tissue, leading to chronic inflammation and genetic damage to nearby cells. The key mechanisms behind asbestos-induced cancers include:
Inflammation. Asbestos fibers trigger a chronic inflammatory response in the lungs, leading to oxidative stress and DNA damage. This inflammation creates a favorable environment for the development of cancerous cells.
Fibrosis. The long-term presence of asbestos fibers in the lungs can lead to the development of fibrotic scar tissue. This scar tissue can create a platform for tumor growth.
Genetic Damage. Asbestos fibers can directly damage the DNA of lung cells, leading to genetic mutations that can promote the development of cancer.
Asbestos Fiber Types. The carcinogenicity of asbestos varies depending on the type of fiber. Amphibole asbestos fibers, such as crocidolite and amosite, are more dangerous than chrysotile fibers. The physical properties of amphibole fibers make them more likely to penetrate deep into the lung tissue.
Prevention and Risk Reduction
Given the serious health risks associated with asbestos exposure, taking preventive measures is crucial. The Canadian government introduced more stringent regulations prohibiting asbestos and products containing asbestos in 2018. The regulations prohibit the import, sale and use of asbestos, and the manufacture, import, sale and use of products containing asbestos, with a limited number of exclusions.
Asbestos Abatement. If you suspect asbestos-containing materials in your home or workplace, it’s essential to have them professionally inspected and, if necessary, removed or encapsulated.
Occupational Safety. Workers in industries with potential asbestos exposure should follow strict safety protocols, including the use of protective clothing and respiratory equipment.
Smoking Cessation. If you have a history of asbestos exposure, quitting smoking is critical, as smoking significantly increases the risk of lung cancer in asbestos-exposed individuals.
Medical Monitoring. Regular health check-ups are important for individuals with a history of asbestos exposure. Early detection and intervention can improve the prognosis for asbestos-related diseases.
Environmental Protection. Ensure that asbestos-containing materials in your home are well-maintained to prevent their deterioration and the release of asbestos fibers into the air.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our lawyers at Miskin Law team can help you with a claim to asbestos trust funds. While not everyone exposed to asbestos gets cancer, it’s essential to know your rights to mesothelioma compensation. We are trustworthy Canadian mesothelioma lawyers that put your needs first. Contact Asbestos Canada today to learn more.