Exposure to asbestos can cause big problems later in life. Workers in jobs with high asbestos exposure should get regular chest x-rays to monitor the condition of their lungs. Here’s a look at asbestos and why these x-rays are important.
What is Asbestos?
A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos was a popular insulation material for many years. Certain occupations, such as construction workers, have higher levels of exposure. Thanks to stricter health regulations, workplace asbestos exposure has dramatically decreased in recent years; most people with asbestos poisoning were exposed prior to the late 1970s.
Inhaling large amounts of asbestos fibers or dust over an extended period of time can damage and scar the lungs, which makes breathing difficult. This is known as asbestosis. Asbestos exposure also increases the risk of developing mesothelioma, malignant cancer that surrounds the lungs.
How Does Asbestos Affect the Body?
When people inhale asbestos fibers or dust, the particles get trapped in their lungs. As the lung unsuccessfully tries to remove the material, it leads to lung damage and scar tissue. Problems related to asbestos exposure usually develop slowly; you may not notice symptoms of asbestosis, for example, until twenty years after exposure to asbestos dust or fibers. In addition to asbestosis and mesothelioma, asbestos exposure may contribute to other health problems such as hardening and thickening of the lining of the lungs and/or fluid around them.
What Materials Contain Asbestos?
Many common materials may contain asbestos, such as:
- Insulation systems
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Plaster, putties, cement and caulk
- Hot water pipe wrapping
- Automobile clutch pads and brake linings
- Heat-resistant fabrics
Exposure to these materials doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been exposed to asbestos, even if the materials contain asbestos. The risk of asbestosis or mesothelioma only increases if the asbestos is in the form of dust or fibers that you inhale.
Why are Annual Chest X-Rays Important?
Along with a medical history and exposure history, regular chest x-rays help doctors diagnose asbestosis and mesothelioma. For patients diagnosed with either disease, x-rays also provide information about the severity of the condition and how much of the lungs are working. Annual x-rays for people exposed to asbestos may help uncover problems earlier so that patients can begin prompt treatment.
What are the Common Symptoms of Asbestosis and Mesothelioma?
Asbestosis and mesothelioma share a number of symptoms. These include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent dry cough
- Chest pain
- Tightness in chest
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
If you notice any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor about them right away. Be prepared to discuss your work history and any possible exposure to asbestos.
How can Employees Get Annual Chest X-Rays?
The ease and convenience of obtaining chest x-rays greatly impacts the likelihood that people exposed to asbestos will get them every year. Mobile imaging services make getting chest x-rays simple and fast for workers. We come to your facility to make it easier for your staff to receive vital preventative care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!