Asbestos Exposure and the Body [Infographic]

Asbestos exposure occurs when the body breathes in asbestos fibers. A mineral used in construction, manufacturing and commercial applications, asbestos become popular over a century ago because of its fire resistant qualities. However, these same qualities that made asbestos highly desirable, also made it deadly.

When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed through cutting or grinding, for example, asbestos fibers become airborne. They can linger in the air for hours or days and increase the risk of asbestos exposure through inhalation. The asbestos fibers can attach to workers’ clothing or tools and equipment, which then can cause secondary exposure to people around them.

After inhaling asbestos, several factors including duration of exposure and intensity of exposure, may contribute to the eventual diagnosis of an asbestos-related diseases. People, however, don’t get sick from asbestos exposure immediately. Instead, it can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years for the signs of asbestos health effects to surface. Because of this long latency period, workers who were exposed to asbestos decades ago are still getting sick today.

The following infographic illustrates, in general, what happens in the body during this long latency period. Specifically, how asbestos fibers enter the body and bypass the body’s defense systems. It also provides an overview of the cancers, most notably mesothelioma, commonly associated with asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Exposure and the Body