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Asbestos exposure for about a month
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Asbestos exposure for about a month

Hi, I recently moved to a new country and initially leased an apartment (for 25 days only) with a water tank made of chrysotile asbestos.  I never saw the tank or went near it but I was told it was in very bad condition. I never drank the water but did cook with it.  

Because I became worried about asbestos contamination through water aerosols, using a face mask, I swept up a sample of settled dust from the main bathroom and sent it to a certified asbestos laboratory. The results were: "significant/very heavy" contamination. The laboratory technician said that it was impossible to count number of fibers. He also said that the presence in the dust suggested air contamination, but it is was also possible the dust contained pieces of asbestos debris.

My bedroom was adjacent to the bathroom and I kept the bathroom door open. I did not have air conditioning or a fan in the apartment but small open windows circulated air. Also, the bathroom floor was cleaned (presumably with bleach) 2x during my stay.  

Assuming the asbestos fibers in the water settled on the floors and then became airborne upon disturbance, how significant was my exposure? Do I have an increased risk for lung cancer, methothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases?

- For at least a week during my stay, I had significant amount of sputum from my nose, which was whitish color. Some headaches but otherwise felt fine.  No wheezing during jogs, which I have prior history of. Don't recall coughing.

- I took a chest x-ray about 1.5 months after leaving the apartment.  It showed secretion lines in the left brochi but the deeper parts of my lungs were completely clear.  However, I had recently visited a much colder climate and picked up a dry, burning cough.  Doc prescribed me Bromhexine, which significantly reduced cough.

- Male/35 years old
- Never smoked.
- 15 years working in an office.
- Occasional cough coupled w/ slight burn in my chest.  
- Extremely stressed, but in good health.
Avatar_dr_m_tn
Hello,

Your questions were:
1. Assuming the asbestos fibers in the water settled on the floors and then became airborne upon disturbance, how significant was my exposure?
2. Do I have an increased risk for lung cancer, methothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases?

It is not possible for me to estimate the significance (or not) of your potential exposure based on the information that you provided.

Typically, we do not think about asbestos exposure occurring by way of water aerosols. And, is it possible that the water tank was internally lined with a different substance and that the asbestos was the insulation?

Do you have reason to believe that there was an asbestos source other than that of the water tank? (for example, friable asbestos containing ceiling or floor tiles)

Did the laboratory provide a report to you that described the sample?
If so, what type of asbestos fiber was present?


~ Dr. Parks

This answer provided to you is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this Medhelp.org posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
5 Comments
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Avatar_m_tn
Thanks, Dr. Parks.  I tried to answer your questions below.  I would appreciate your further review.  

And, is it possible that the water tank was internally lined with a different substance and that the asbestos was the insulation?

---- I don't know for sure but the water tank was more than 50 years old and these tanks were commonly used in this country but are now banned.  I assume it wasn't lined with anything else.  

Do you have reason to believe that there was an asbestos source other than that of the water tank? (for example, friable asbestos containing ceiling or floor tiles)

----- No, I have no evidence of any other asbestos source.  I only lived in the place for 25 days and no longer have access, therefore I can't test the tiles.  The bathroom tiles were white 12 x 12 hard tiles (i.e., not vinyl).  Ceilings were not popcorn type.  Apartment was entirely renovated with modern materials (except water tank, which was specific for the apartment) at least a year before I moved in. But the apartment building itself was 100 years old.  I assume asbestos fibers entered the apartment through the water system and then settled on the flloors eventually.  This is why I tested the bathroom floor -- but my bedroom was adjacent with an open door.

Did the laboratory provide a report to you that described the sample?

----- Report only stated that: (i) contamination was "siginificant/very heavy"; (ii) type was chrysotile, (iii) Qualitative Analysis of Settled Dust by TEM for Asbestos, (iv) Standard Test Method for Indirect Analysis of Dust by Transmission Electron Microscope.

If so, what type of asbestos fiber was present?

----- Chrysotile

My questions were:

1. Assuming the asbestos fibers in the water settled on the floors and then became airborne upon disturbance, how significant was my exposure?

2. Do I have an increased risk for lung cancer, methothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases?

I have another question: could the x-ray results be indicative of asbestos exposure?  The doc that reviewed said no.  He said the secretion lines were of a bacterial/viral nature.  But I don't trust his opinion.  He was very dismissive of my asbestos concerns from the get-go.
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Avatar_m_tn
One other point:

I collected the dust sample from dust, dirt and debris in the shower and bathroom floor.  The bathroom was rather clean so there wasn't a lot of dust, so I had to sweep up almost the entire bathroom in order to produce the dust sample for testing.  
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Avatar_m_tn
Any further thoughts with the additional information I provided?  Thanks.
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Avatar_dr_m_tn
Hello,

The latency (time required) for the effects of exposure to asbestos to be visible on chest radiographs (x-rays) is years not months or days. So, it is highly unlikely if not impossible for the findings that were seen on your x-ray (1-2 months after leaving the apartment) to be related to asbestos exposure.

Based on the information that you have shared, it is very difficult to make the assertion that you had an exposure to asbestos that would increase your lifetime risk of cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestos-related disease.

~ Dr. Parks

This answer provided to you is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this Medhelp.org posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
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Avatar_dr_m_tn
Philip D Parks, MD, MPH, MOccH, F...Blank
Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School
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