Asbestosis is a condition of the lungs specifically related to the breathing of asbestos. Asbestos fibers are very tiny fibers that, when inhaled, cause scarring of the lung tissue. The lung tissue and the lining of the chest wall become thick and hard from the scarring.
It is this scarring of the lung tissue that makes it difficult for the lungs to carry oxygen into the rest of the body. At first there may be no symptoms as the person is not aware of the microscopic damage to the inside of their lungs.
Over time, however, the condition of asbestosis continues to worsen, eventually leading to death. There is no cure for asbestosis, as the lung tissue cannot be repaired. However, symptoms of asbestosis can often be treated for a long period of time, extending the life expectancy of the patient.
Why does this happen? For many years, asbestos was used as a fire retardant and as insulation. Mining and milling workers have been some of the most affected in the past. Construction workers, shipyard workers, and those employed in the fireproofing industry were also exposed.
Between 1999 and 2004, 3,211 Americans died of Asbestosis. Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the use of asbestos, protecting workers in these fields from exposure to deadly asbestos. While many individuals are still suffering the effects, this action should prevent further contraction of this deadly disease.