What are the health effects from exposure to asbestos?

The health risks connected with prolonged exposure to asbestos are fully recognized and accepted now, but this was not always the case.

For a long time asbestos was a frequently used material in building work and workers were allowed to be exposed to it, and to breathe in asbestos fibres, without being supplied with any safety clothing.

The consequences of this proved to be drastic, with many going on to develop a number of lung and chest diseases, including lung cancer and asbestosis.

However many of those affected did not begin to show signs of the diseases until years after their first contact with asbestos – something which ensured that the links between the diseases and the substance were not immediately apparent.

Thankfully now asbestos is recognised as a potential killer, and is utilised far less frequently.  These are some of the life-threatening conditions that exposure to it can lead to.


This is perhaps the single most common condition developed by those using asbestos, and indeed, asbestosis can even affect those who live with someone who works with the substance.

Asbestosis is a disease of the respiratory system, caused by inhaling asbestos fibres, which scar the lining of the lungs and make it difficult for the victim to breathe as normal. The disease also causes significant chest pain.


This is a rare form of cancer that attacks the outer lung cells and the contents of the abdominal cavity and it is almost entirely associated with long-term exposure to asbestos fibres.

Like many of the diseases caused by asbestos it is slow to manifest in physical symptoms, but once the cancer has taken hold it spreads extremely quickly and is fatal. Amongst the symptoms are difficulty breathing, loss of weight, exhaustion, coughing and pains in the chest region. Furthermore this disease can be contracted even if the actual exposure level is low.