One-Off Asbestos Exposure: How Harmful Is it?

asbestos

It’s important to educate yourself about the dangers of asbestos exposure—this insidious material has been the cause behind a range of illnesses in those that have been exposed to it. Mesothelioma is just one of the diseases that can be caused by asbestos exposure. Many people who have worked with asbestos-containing products, lived in homes built with it or used cosmetic products with trace amounts of it have seen first-hand the damaging effects asbestos can have on one’s health.

Understanding the Exact Effects of Asbestos Exposure

Awareness about the dangers of being exposed to asbestos has increased significantly in recent decades. However, despite what we now know about asbestos exposure, the exact details about how much exposure is too much are still unclear.

  • Can you get cancer years after one-off exposure?
  • Does the amount you were exposed affect how or whether you will develop an illness?
  • How much exposure does it take for cancers like mesothelioma to form?
  • How does the type of exposure affect the type of mesothelioma that develops?

These are all questions that experts still do not have definitive answers for. Of course, it’s probable that long-term exposure to asbestos is more likely to result in health complications down the road. The more frequently a person is exposed to asbestos, the more they are increasing their health risks. Because of this, any exposure should be avoided at all costs.

Asbestos Exposure Factors

Another reason that experts have not yet been able to determine whether a one-time exposure to asbestos is enough to cause illness is due to the circumstantial nature of asbestos-associated illnesses.

The following variables can affect whether an asbestos illness will develop and who it will affect:

  • Asbestos Type: Several minerals can be legally defined as asbestos. You may have heard of white, brown and blue asbestos, which refer to chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite respectively. Anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite are some other examples. White asbestos is the most commonly encountered form of asbestos for commercial use in the United States, but the type of asbestos a person was exposed to can play a role in how their health is affected.
  • Asbestos Exposure Environment: Where you were exposed to asbestos can also determine how and if it will impact your health. Second-hand exposure can be just as dangerous as first-hand exposure. While mesothelioma is often found in individuals who were exposed to asbestos at work in industrial settings, there have been cases of domestic exposure or second-hand exposure where fibers were carried home on a family member’s clothing.
  • Genetics: Individual factors such as your genetics can factor into your risk level for developing an asbestos-related illness after being exposed.

While it can be helpful to consider all this information to understand your level of risk, it’s absolutely essential to note that you can never be too careful—all exposure to asbestos carries risk.

If you think that there is a chance you may have been exposed, don’t dismiss your concerns or be afraid to ask for help. Play it safe and tell your doctor. If it turns out that you have been exposed, taking precautions as early as possible can make a huge difference in your health.

Take Action if You’ve Been Exposed to Asbestos

Being exposed to asbestos briefly one time carries a low risk. But low risk is still a risk nonetheless. If you have a history of asbestos exposure, your doctor may arrange for you to be screened. In the case that you do develop health complications, an early diagnosis can ensure you receive immediate treatment before mesothelioma spreads.

If nothing is found, continue to see your doctor for regular check-ups to ensure your future health. It’s important to remember that asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma often take years, even decades, to manifest after exposure. While you shouldn’t let this fact stress you out, keep it in mind and ensure you consult a physician regularly—they need to know the details of your exposure. If any symptoms arise, also make sure you seek medical help immediately. There is no need to constantly worry about your exposure, but seeking medical expertise after exposure can benefit you both in the short-term and the long-run.