Asbestosis is a form of pneumoconiosis ( an occupational and restrictive lung disease caused by inhaling of dust or other foreign objects that are used or produced in an occupation) caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers. It results in scarring and irreversible fibrosis of the lungs. The disease has the potential of becoming fatal if it develops into a progressive disorder of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In worst case scenarios, it forms the basis of various types of lung cancers.
As per the data released in AsbestosNetwork.com in its July 2004 issue, “Deaths in the United States from asbestosis increased 400 [percent] during the last two decades, according to government statistics."
Asbestosis attacks the thin-walled cells and tissues of the lung that constitute the alveoli, respiratory bronchiole, alveolar duct and terminal bronchiole. The symptoms of this disease include any or a combination of the following presentations that sometimes does not appear until years after exposure to asbestos dust and fiber inhalation:
• Dyspnea (shortness of breath) due to reduced total lung capacity
• Cough (though a rare symptom)
• Chest pain
• Fatigue easily
• Respiratory failure
• Deformity or clubbing of fingers
• Plaque formation in the parietal pleura
• Diffused fibrotic pattern in the lower lung lobes
To answer how the disease develops, one might want to look at the mechanism in which the two different types of asbestos fibers (the thin, straight fibers and the curved fibers) affect the lung tissue. The thin-straight fibers go deep into the lung’s air sacs thereby instigating the body’s local immune system and setting off an inflammatory response. This is what forms the chronic condition where the body tries to eject the foreign particles through swelling.
Over a period of time however, connective tissues are deposited over the embedded fibers.