16533111 tn?1448876222

Asbestos exposure - role of inflammation and phlegm // anything I can do?


I was significantly exposed to asbestos (loose fibers from demolition works) last weekend (for the second time in about a year). In the following days, I experienced violent inflammation of the airways, burning feeling in my lungs, very deep cough with very thick phlegm (mostly dark yellow/brown), light fever during the day, night sweats, fatigue, hoarseness, blood in the back of my mouth in the morning, etc. Very similar in fact to the story and symptoms described here: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Undiagnosed-Symptoms/Undiagnosed-Symptoms-Following-Asbestos-Exposure/show/576362#post_3183601

I know the (possible) more serious health effects of asbestos exposure usually do not become obvious until 30-50 years later (or more), but am surprised by my body's violent reaction to inhaled asbestos fibers, and what I can find about such an acute body response to asbestos in scientific literature / on the internet at large is very limited. Often people underline how you CAN NOT have any adverse effects due to asbestos in the short/immediate term, but this is obviously not true.

After two days, I used an inhaler (Symbicort), which helped a GREAT deal in reducing symptoms - I suppose because of its anti-inflammatory qualities? On the third day, today, however, I have felt sharp pain in my left lung, both in the centre of the lung (slightly towards the spine) and at the bottom. I'm now wondering if by applying the inhaler I may have reduced symptoms (increasing my quality of life here and now), but at the same time, by suppressing the body's natural inflammatory reaction, I may have kept the body from effectively fighting the fibers, giving them more opportunity to settle in? Same goes for the thick phlegm: it's almost completely gone now - because of the inhaler and a phlegm-dissolving medicine called Lysomucil which I took, I assume - but doesn't that reduce the body's ability to capture and throw out the asbestos fibers? Worried because the subsiding of symptoms coincides with sharp pain in my left lung.

Also, is there ANYTHING I can do to help the lungs dispel these fibers and to reduce my chances of longer-term health effects? Anything at all?

Could the sharp pain I described above be a sign of emerging emphysema, asbestosis or pleural thickening/plaques?

My first exposure happened about a year ago when workers removed asbestos-containing material without precaution during refurbishment works in my kitchen. There was a LOT of dust, i.e. huge amounts of loose fibers and I had the symptoms described above for over two months at an end immediately following exposure - which reinforces my fear that fibers lingered around for a long time and I unknowingly kept exposing myself. As I did not know about asbestos-related hazards back then, I did not see the link between my symptoms and the works. My GP thought I had had a pneumonia (self-cured by the body by the time I went to see her), so I left it at that. Looking back, however, I've been short of breath over the last year, but I always thought I was getting old, I hadn't done as much exercise lately, etc. Spirometry showed my forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) has been reduced to about 82% of the expected value, FEF25-75 only 50% of expected, FEV1/FVC 67%, resistance (raw) 120% of expected, rest (incl. DLCO) seems normal. Wondering if I could have developed emerging emphysema, asbestosis or pleural thickening/plaques after my first (intense) exposure - which may have been significantly exacerbated now by the second exposure?

Many thanks for your advice on any of this, am very anxious about it!

2 Responses
144586 tn?1284666164
Well, use of an over-the-counter expectorant, in tablet or liquid form, and drinking copious quantities of fluids will help a bit. Making sure the room is well humidified won't hurt either. You might consider getting a film of your lung. Likely nothing will show. The lung has an amazing ability to get rid of toxic substances. Decades ago, after fighting a forest fire I coughed up black particles for three weeks. I could hardly take a breath. But the debri was eventually cleared.
4851940 tn?1515694593
Unfortunately asbestos fibres are very fine miniscule particles with jagged edges.  No amount of coughing or any other anti-inflammatory inhaler will rid the particles once they are in the lungs and avioli.    
Asbestosis and diseases of the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos has no cure.  

If you are experiencing pain whilst breathing in and out, you must make an urgent appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.  Tell your doctor of your exposure to the asbestos so that she can arrange for imaging tests on your lungs to see what damage is already there.  The doctor may be able to prescribe you with oxygen and other medications if you have a bacterial infection.

Keep a written record of your medical findings and how being exposed to the asbestos has been affecting you, as well as when the incidents happened.  You will need all this information in the event that you may need to make a claim against the company that negligently exposed you to the asbestos.   Do make sure that it was asbestos and not normal plaster dust particles.  

Normal dust particles and other debris would be expelled by coughing.  You cannot compare these things to asbestos.

You can find more information on the web about asbestos and how it affects the lungs and air ways.

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