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Asbestos hazards include mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other cancers. Exposure typically occurs in the workplace or the home, as asbestos has been used as insulation for boilers, hot water pipes, and steam pipes. Some ceiling tiles, floor tiles, paints, plastics, and adhesives also contain asbestos.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on cancer have classified asbestos as a substance that causes cancer in humans. This means that any materials that contain this mineral are potential asbestos hazards. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned all new uses of asbestos in 1989.
Mesothelioma is the most common of the different types of asbestos hazards. It is a fatal cancer that develops in the lining of the lung, the abdomen, or the heart. Some people who are exposed to asbestos develop mesothelioma in more than one location. Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma in 70 to 80 percent of all cases, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Another health condition that is one of the most common asbestos hazards is lung cancer. Lung cancer is usually fatal. The overall five-year survival rate for lung cancer from 1995 to 2002 was only 15 percent.
Individuals who develop pleural plaques from asbestos exposure are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer than those who do not. Pleural plaques are bands of scar tissue that form on the walls of the lungs due to inhaled asbestos fibers. Inhaled asbestos fibers are trapped in the lungs and accumulate, scarring the lungs and leading to breathing problems.
Asbestosis is an inflammatory lung condition caused by inhaling asbestos. It leads to coughing, shortness of breath, and permanent lung damage. Asbestosis can develop for years without symptoms, though x-rays can detect lung damage from asbestos exposure in early stages.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, studies relating to asbestos hazards have shown enough evidence of an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancers and larynx cancers in individuals exposed to asbestos. People exposed to asbestos may have a greater risk of developing cancer of the throat, esophagus, colon, and gallbladder. Other cancers that have been linked to asbestos hazards in some studies include cancer of the ovary, and kidney. While these studies do not provide enough evidence to link asbestos exposure to diagnoses of these cancers directly, individuals exposed to asbestos may be at a greater risk of developing them.