Respiratory Disorders Expert Forum
Possible asbestos exposure
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Possible asbestos exposure

Hello,

About 4 years ago I may have been exposed to asbestos whilst helping with renovations (it was inside a house). The material that was being removed was the wall sheeting.

We didn't really think about the possibility of asbestos until the job was finished, and recent publicity about asbestos has got me worried.

There was no drilling or sawing as the job involved just pulling the sheets off the walls (and sometimes breaking), but it was quite dusty with visible dust in the air. Stupidly no face masks or protective devices were worn. The duration of this possible exposure was approximately 6 hours.

I went to the family doctor and told him about this, but he dismissed it with a wave of his hand and said 'there is nothing to worry about'.

I am male, 25, and work in the mining industry (underground coal and underground metalliferous) although I do not work underground anymore. I was exposed to quite high levels of dust underground but face masks were worn.

I have been for 2 chest xrays (one for occupational reasons and the other for a chest infection in 2003 and 2002 respectively) which showed up normal. Also, I have recently noticed that sometimes I have difficulty swallowing and I have to clear my throat quite often. This usually happens towards night-time  

So, if it was asbestos, should there be cause for real concern with that level of (possible) exposure?

Thank you,

Anxious
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Your chances of developing asbestosis from this single possible exposure are very small.  There can still be asbestos exposure even without drilling or sawing.  Asbestos exposure happens anytime that the solid surface is broken and raw edges are created.  This allows the asbestos fibers to be released into the air.  For people who have had known exposure to asbestos the usual approach is for their doctor to check them periodically with a thorough examine, chest x-ray, and spirometry testing.  Spirometry is a simple breathing test that measures how the lungs are working.  Often it will identify a problem in the lungs before symptoms start.  When this is done periodically it will tell about the health of the lungs over time.

The length of time between your possible asbestos exposure and your symptoms starting does not fit with asbestosis.  Generally it takes 10 to 50 years after exposure for health problems to start.  Asbestosis causes changes in the way that the lungs look and work.  Eventually these changes will show up on a chest x-ray and spirometry.  So it is good that your chest x-rays have been normal for the past 2 years.  However in the early stages it may take a CT scan of the lungs for asbestosis to be found.

In order to keep your lungs healthy try to avoid exposure to irritants as much as feasibly possible.  This would include cigarette smoke, air pollution, and occupational exposures to any toxins, irritant particles or allergens.

What you have described are not typical symptoms of exposure to asbestos, coal, or metalliferous.  Check with your doctor to see if your difficulty swallowing and throat clearing is due to postnasal drip.  This is drainage from the nose and sinuses dripping down the back of the throat.  A nasal wash helps remove mucus from your nose and sinuses.  It is most helpful when done daily before using any nasal spray.  A prescription nasal steroid spray decreases mucus production by decreasing the inflammation of the nose and sinuses.  This may prevent the postnasal drip.  A nasal steroid spray does not provide immediate relief of symptoms.  It may need to be used every day for several weeks to months for it to help.  Please read our Nasal Wash MedFact at http://www.nationaljewish.org/medfacts/nasal.html for more information about this technique.  Share this information with your doctor to see if you would benefit from this daily treatment.
5 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I forgot to add that I am a non smoker.

Thanks
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Avatar_n_tn
Several years ago, I too was had an extreme exposure to asbestos doing construction demolition work. I was at the work site for maybe a week or so.
Much later, I became concerned about the possible future ramifications this might have on my lung health, so I did some research and got a couple of medical opinions. The consensus seems to be that short term exposure to asbestos, even if severe, isn't  a very high risk factor for developing future lung disease or disorders.
It's the long term, day after day, week after week, year after year exposure that's ususally cause for concern.
Naturally, I hope that this opinion is correct, but I'd sure be interested in hearing what anyone more qualified has to say on this subject.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks very much for your response.

I forgot to add that in my work medical(s), spirometry testing was carried out and I was within normal range.

I too have done a lot of reading on asbestos and related illnesses, but what seems to worry me are the cases where people are exposed at a relatively young age and then develop mesothelioma within 20-30 years.

Hopefully this is extremely rare, but media beat-up and histeria seem to imply this is common place.

Thank you once again.
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Avatar_n_tn
From what I've read about asbestos exposure it would be very unlikely for anything to develop from such a brief exposure - certainly not asbestosis anyway which generally requires exposure over a period of months / years. Mesothelioma can develop with peripheral exposure but again you would have be very unlucky to cop a dose from a single intense exposure.I doubt anything would show in as little as 4 years anyway.

I was exposed to toxic fumes and high dust ( including asbestos and silica ) levels for a 2-3 month period approximately 11.5 years ago and started experiencing a whole host of obscure symptoms about 3 years ago - one of the most noticeable being shortness of breath. I have had one clear x-ray 18 months ago and I am probably due another one as recently my chest pain and shortness of breath seems to have got a fair bit worse quite quickly. One thing I did notice after the job where I was exposed to dusts was irritation in my throat like you describe and also a sense of blockage in my sinuses both of which started whilst working at the site and never cleared. I guess the throat clearing et al. you describe may be similar in that you may be being exposed to excessively high dust levels which are irritating your respiratory tract.Anyway I'm sure you'll be fine.Take care
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