In the United States, over 39,000 Americans die every year from complications associated with asbestos exposure.
Do you know what to do if you’re exposed to asbestos? Do you know when to consult a doctor or what kinds of health issues asbestos can cause?
If you said “no” to any of these questions, keep reading. Explained below is everything you need to know so that, if you are exposed, you can take action and protect yourself.
What Is Asbestos?
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Asbestos is a group of 6 minerals. It consists of soft, flexible, heat-resistant.
For about 50 years, from the 1930s until the early 1980s, asbestos was widely used throughout the United States in building insulation, construction materials, vehicles, and more. Thanks to its heat-resistant nature, it was a popular filler, until researchers learned more about how dangerous it could be.
Despite the risks associated with asbestos (we’ll touch more on those in a minute), it is still used in hundreds of consumer products throughout the U.S. It’s allowed as long as it makes up no more than one percent of the product.
Risks and Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
What happens when you’re exposed to asbestos? A lot can go wrong, especially if you’ve been exposed long-term. The following are some early symptoms you might experience post-exposure:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry coughing
Over time, you might develop additional symptoms, including these:
- A crackling sound when breathing
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Respiratory complications
- Pleural effusion (an accumulation of fluid in the space that surrounds the lungs)
Beyond respiratory symptoms, asbestos exposure can cause issues in other parts of the body. For example, some people develop abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, bowel obstructions, weight loss, and clubbed fingers (enlarged fingertips, resulting from a lack of blood flow and oxygen).
Asbestos exposure has been linked to several chronic illnesses, too, including pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and asbestosis (a type of chronic lung disease). Asbestos exposure can contribute to certain types of cancer, too, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer.
What to Do if You’re Exposed to Asbestos
Clearly, asbestos exposure is something you should take seriously. What should you do, specifically, if you’re exposed, though? Here are 7 action steps you can take:
1. Assess the Situation
It’s easy to panic when you find out you’ve been exposed to asbestos. After all, you just read about all of the serious risks associated with them.
The good news is that quick exposure likely isn’t anything to worry about.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, length, and frequency of exposure both matter. The same is true of how much asbestos you were exposed to and whether or not you have any pre-existing lung conditions.
If you’re relatively healthy and were only exposed for a short time, there’s a good chance you’ll be just fine.
2. Wash Your Body and Clothing
Even if you were only exposed for a brief period, it’s still a good idea to wash your body. Change out of the clothing you were wearing at the time, too so you can throw them in the washing machine.
This will help you to avoid repeatedly exposing yourself, which increases your risk of potential complications.
3. Monitor Your Symptoms
Once you’re clean and changed into fresh clothes, take note of any symptoms you’re experiencing. If you were only exposed briefly, you likely won’t feel anything. If you were exposed because of something more serious, like an explosion, though, you might have symptoms like a cough or chest pain.
Write down your symptoms and pay attention to how they change in the following days (if they change at all). This information can help your doctor assess your situation and create a more comprehensive treatment plan moving forward.
4. Consult a Doctor
Speaking of your doctor, the next step is to reach out to them. When you call your doctor, explain the situation and be specific about the frequency, duration, and intensity of your exposure.
Based on the information you provide, the doctor may call you in for a visit, or they may tell you to just stay home and continue monitoring your symptoms from afar. If they do ask you to come into the office, they may conduct some tests, such as chest x-rays or CT scans, to see if the exposure caused any damage.
5. Research Treatment Options
If you have sustained significant lung scarring, your doctor might recommend certain treatments, such as oxygen therapy, to help you improve your breathing and minimize your symptoms. They may recommend lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, too, to reduce additional lung damage.
6. Consult an Attorney
After being exposed to asbestos, especially if you find out that you require extensive medical care, you ought to consult an attorney.
Some personal injury attorneys specialize in asbestos-related cases. If possible, try to find one in your area.
This type of attorney will know what steps to take to ensure you’re compensated for your treatment, as well as other issues like pain and suffering or the amount of time you have to spend away from work.
7. Look into Asbestos Removal
Were you exposed to asbestos in your home? If so, look into asbestos removal so that you don’t continue to expose yourself and risking more serious health complications.
According to the experts at http://www.hcienv.com/services/asbestos-lead-mold.asp, many of the same companies that remove toxins like lead and mold are also equipped to handle asbestos.
You can also reach out to your local health department. They can provide additional recommendations for companies you can contact to have asbestos removed from your home.
Should I Consult a Doctor?
You now know a lot more about asbestos, the risks of asbestos exposure, and how to proceed if you are exposed. Now that you have this information, do you think you need to consult a doctor?
If you require medical attention, we have lots of other articles on our site that can help you find a qualified healthcare professional. Don’t have health insurance? Check out this article next to learn which type of coverage will be most beneficial to you.