WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

What Is Asbestos and Why Is It Potentially Harmful?

By Michael Butler
Unfortunately asbestos is still all around us in buildings and some products. If you're not careful its exposure can lead to chronic disease or cancer.
What Is Asbestos and Why Is It Potentially Harmful?

You probably have heard people warn about the negative impact asbestos can have on your health. But what exactly is it?

Asbestos is a natural substance that can be found in rocks and soil. The mineral fiber’s durability and resistance to heat allow it to be used in several different ways, like as an insulation component in construction materials and also as non-flammable material.

Being exposed to asbestos can have serious, adverse effects on your health. Asbestos exposure can increase your chances of developing lung cancer. Mesothelioma, or cancer of the mesothelial tissue, can develop after being exposed to asbestos. And it can take years for symptoms related to the exposure to appear.

Working with asbestos is a risk factor for developing mesothelioma. When working in a space with asbestos exposure, it is highly recommended to wear a face mask.

The lung disease asbestosis is not cancerous but is a chronic illness that is also linked to being exposed to asbestos. By inhaling asbestos’ microscopic fibers and dust, you can scar the tissues in your lungs. Unfortunately, decades can pass before people realize they have asbestosis, and the condition is irreversible. The longer you have been exposed to asbestos, the worse the impact of this disease.

What Is Asbestos and Why Is It Potentially Harmful?

Smoking cigarettes is not good for your health and can also exacerbate the effects of being exposed to asbestos. Cigarette smoke can cause problems in your lung passages and can make it more difficult for your lungs to get rid of asbestos' pesky fibers.

With a vigilant eye and taking the proper precautions, you can prevent health ailments related to asbestos exposure. Your lung health matters more than you may know.