How to Tell If You've Breathed Asbestos

Written by david stewart
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How to Tell If You've Breathed Asbestos
(BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Inhalation of asbestos can be dangerous even if you have been exposed only temporarily. Asbestos is used in roof shingles, roofing tiles, roofing felts, siding shingles, cement fittings and pipes used for water and drainage mains. As asbestos is fire and heat resistant, asbestos cement sheets are used in the proximity of boilers and fireplaces. You become exposed to asbestos when asbestos fibres, usually held intact inside the products, break and disperse into the air. This can happen during use of asbestos products, residential repairs, or if you are in the vicinity of building demolition works. There is no immediate symptom to indicate that a person has inhaled asbestos. But, it is always better to be cautious, especially if you suspect you have been exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Observe if you experience shortness of breath, persistent cough, pain in the chest, and difficulty to perform physical tasks. This could be an indication of Asbestosis. Asbestosis is caused by scarring of the lungs (fibrosis). When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they get lodged in the lungs. The body's immune system fights them because they are foreign substances by ordering inflammation of the entrants. This process creates scar-like tissue in the lungs, which thickens the air sacs walls, leading to difficulty in breathing.

  2. 2

    Check for swelling, anaemia, nausea, constipation, fever or sweating at nights and loss in weight, in addition to the breathing symptoms. This could indicate mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lung membranes or the abdomen. Even low levels of asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma.

  3. 3

    Check for chronic cough increasing in severity and accompanied by blood in sputum. If there is also chest pain, hoarseness, difficulty in breathing and wheezing, loss of weight, headache and pain in the bones, pay immediate attention for these could be symptoms of lung cancer.

  4. 4

    Seek professional help immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear safety asbestos masks while performing home repairs to avoid exposure and avoid demolition sites.
  • Consult an asbestos attorney to know if you can claim compensation if you are diagnosed with asbestos inhalation symptoms. This can help cover your medical costs.
  • Do not ignore asbestos breathing-related symptoms.

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