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Effects of Toxins – Asbestos


According to Ansari, Bihari, Rastogi, Ashquin, and Ahmad (2007), asbestos is “one of the naturally-occurring compounds” (p. 15). This mineral compound occurs in different products such as cement, ceilings, tiles, and transmission parts. Asbestos is heat-resistant. This “mineral compound has very strong fibers” (Ansari et al., 2007, p. 17). This chemical material is classified as a dangerous carcinogen. Continued exposure to asbestos increases a person’s risk of developing various health complications. Such complications include asbestos, pleural disorder, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. This discussion explores the major health implications associated with asbestos.

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Health Effects of Asbestos

Immune System

Asbestos has the potential “to affect a person’s immune system” (Ansari et al., 2007, p. 17). The immunity of a person decreases after prolonged exposure to asbestos. However, the relationship between asbestos and human immunity is not clearly known (Ansari et al., 2007). This fact explains why modern researchers are examining the pathways associated with this mineral compound. Prolonged exposure to asbestos “increases the incidences of various diseases such as laryngitis and retroperitoneal fibrosis” (Ansari et al., 2007, p. 18). According to different studies, continued exposure to asbestos weakens the immune system. Studies are being undertaken in order to understand how asbestos affects the human immune system (Kacew & Lee, 2013).

Respiratory System

Asbestos is known to cause many health problems. Continued inhalation of asbestos fibers can result in different respiratory problems. One of the possible respiratory problems is called asbestosis. The disease causes a scar-like injury in the lungs. This injury is also known as pulmonary fibrosis. This inflammatory disease “is characterized by coughing and shortness of breath” (Rosell-Murphy et al., 2013, p. 2). Individuals with this disease tend to have breathing difficulties. Rosell-Murphy et al. (2013) argue that “fully-developed asbestosis produces different symptoms such as chest pain, finger clubbing, coughing, and skin coloration” (p. 4). The above fibrosis makes the lungs rigid. This disease can also cause numerous health problems.

Lung cancer is “associated with pulmonary fibrosis” (Rosell-Murphy et al., 2013, p. 3). Individuals exposed to this toxic compound can develop lung cancer within 2-3 decades. However, long-term exposure to this compound can result in different lung diseases (Ansari et al., 2007). According to studies, lung cancer might not produce any symptoms within the first few years (Rosell-Murphy et al., 2013). The major symptoms associated with lung cancer include “chest pain, fever, weight loss, and shortness of breath” (Rosell-Murphy et al., 2013, p. 3). Patients should get the best medical support to deal with this health problem. Lung cancer also “causes pleural plaques” (Rosell-Murphy et al., 2013, p. 4). Pleural effusions can also occur due to continued inhalation of asbestos fibers. Such effusions are characterized by abnormal absorption of body fluids from the chest.

The Liver

Asbestos fibers can be deposited in different body tissues and organs. Inhaled asbestos fibers “can move to different abdominal organs” (Ansari et al., 2007, p. 18). The human liver is usually permeable. Asbestos fibers can also cause inflammation. This inflammation will eventually cause a disease known as cholangiocarcinoma. New studies are being undertaken in order to and the diseases and health complications associated with this disease. This discussion shows clearly that asbestos can affect many body organs. Human beings should therefore protect themselves from this toxic compound. More studies are also needed to understand the health problems associated with asbestos.


Ansari, F., Bihari, V., Rastogi, S., Ashquin, M., & Ahmad, I. (2007). Environmental Health Survey in Asbestos Cement Sheets Manufacturing Industry. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 11(1), 15-20.

Kacew, S., & Lee, B. (2013). Lu’s Basic Toxicology: Fundamentals, Target Organs, and Risk Assessment. New York, NY: Information Healthcare.

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Rosell-Murphy, M., Abos-Herrandiz, R., Olivella, J., Alberti-Casas, Allas, I.,…Canela-Soler, J. (2013). Risk Factors Associated with Asbestos-Related Diseases: A Community-Based Case-Control Study. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 1-6.

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