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Exposed To Asbestos? Here’s What You Should Do

If you know anything about asbestos, you most likely fear this invincible killer – and for a good reason. It’s thought to cause the death of a staggering 90,000 people globally each year, according to Asbestos.com. It’s also the number one cause of work-related deaths in the world. 

These numbers are frightening, and if you work in an older building, no matter your profession, you may feel concerned about asbestos exposure and want to improve your asbestos awareness. We don’t blame you for being worried, but we can help. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to asbestos, here is everything you need to know and what to do next. 

How Do You Know if You’ve Been Exposed to Asbestos? 

As we have mentioned, asbestos exposure is dangerous and can be life-threatening. If you are concerned that you have been in contact with asbestos, you may notice several symptoms that confirm your exposure. These are caused by Asbestosis, which according to the NHS, is a serious lung condition caused by exposure to asbestos. 

Symptoms of Asbestosis include: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Persistent cough
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Chest or shoulder pain
  • Swollen fingertips 

However, asbestosis is not the only related disease you may develop. Asbestos exposure can also lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and pleural disease. 

How Long Do Asbestos Symptoms Take to Show?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you view it, asbestos exposure symptoms take a while to develop. After long-term exposure, asbestos-related symptoms take between ten and forty years to develop. 

This may be worrying if you are concerned about recent exposure, but in reality, it can be impossible to tell if you have inhaled a significant amount of asbestosis. To ease any concern you have, the best way forward is to implement best practices when it comes to potentially working around asbestos with appropriate training. 

What To Do After Being Exposed to Asbestos 

If you work in an industry that requires you to work in and around asbestos-containing materials and you have begun to show symptoms of asbestosis, you should visit your GP. 

Your doctor will ask questions about your work history and listen to your lungs using a stethoscope. They may then wish to carry out additional tests, like a chest x-ray, a CT scan of the lungs or lung function tests. 

Treatment for Asbestos Exposure 

Unfortunately, if you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, there is no cure once it has developed. The damage caused to your lungs by asbestos exposure is irreversible. 

But there are several treatments you can undergo to improve your quality of life and manage symptoms better. For example, treatments for asbestos exposure can include;

  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: This rehabilitation programme consists of exercises and education that help you manage symptoms of asbestos exposure. 
  • Oxygen Therapy: If blood oxygen levels are low, you can improve breathlessness by breathing in oxygen-rich air from a tank or machine. 
  • Inhaler Use: To ease your breathing, you may be prescribed an inhaler if your symptoms are mild. 

More Ways you can Improve Asbestos Symptoms 

You can also make some personal changes in your lifestyle to improve your asbestos symptoms and how you manage them. 

Firstly, if you are a smoker, you should begin your journey to stop. Smoking cigarettes can aggravate your lungs further after asbestos exposure, and when smoking, you have an even higher risk of developing lung cancer. 

You should also ensure that you keep up to date with flu vaccinations and pneumococcal vaccinations offered by your GP. This is important because your lungs will be much more vulnerable to infections like the flu and pneumonia after asbestos exposure. 

Should I Be Worried?

So, now you know how to seek treatment after asbestos exposure and the options available to you, and we hope you’ve gained more asbestos awareness and feel more educated about this invisible killer.

You should not be too worried about asbestos-containing materials, as you can effectively work around them without disturbing them. Only when ACMs are disturbed are asbestos fibres released into the air and then inhaled by those in the vicinity. So, you should be cautious of disturbing such materials, as asbestos fibres can remain airborne for between 48 and 72 hours, making it easy to be exposed for longer periods. 

As we’ve also mentioned in our article, it can take a long period of heavy exposure for asbestos to damage your lungs irreversibly, so you shouldn’t be worried about a one-off site visit. 

But the best way to protect yourself and your team from potential asbestos exposure is to ensure everyone on site is properly trained on asbestos awareness. Even more important, if your team are tasked with moving asbestos-containing materials, they must be efficiently trained in asbestos removal training

For more advice and information on the training your team needs, contact us today for further guidance. At NATAS, we are the National Asbestos Training Accreditation Scheme, which means we can answer your questions and offer the sound advice you need. 

Related

Asbestos Awareness: Employer Responsibilities When It Comes To Training – Asbestos

How Dangerous Is Asbestos?

How To Spot/Identify Asbestos

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