What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a material made up of naturally occurring minerals. Asbestos has excellent heat resistant properties and has historically been used in insulation. There are different fibre types and some are more dangerous than others: –

  • Serpentine or curly fibres: chrysotile (white asbestos).
  • Needle-like fibres called amphiboles: crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos) and tremolite & actinolite (contaminants of chrysotile).

Given the needle-like shape of the amphiboles, they find it easier to penetrate deep into the lung where they can cause more problems.

What Problems Can Asbestos Cause?

Asbestos can cause a number of issues in the chest: –

  • Asbestosis (fibrosis or scarring of the lungs).
  • Malignant mesothelioma (a cancer of the membrane around the lungs called the pleura).
  • Lung cancer.
  • Benign pleural plaques (plaques around the edges of the lungs on the pleura).
  • Diffuse pleural thickening (thickening the pleura from a wafer-thin bag to a thick orange peel density).
  • Pleural effusion (collection of liquid around the lung).