Asbestosis Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors
When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can cause inflammation and scarring of lung tissues. This is called "fibrosis."
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Asbestosis?
- Shortness of breath
- A persistent dry cough
- Chest tightness
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite with weight loss
- A dry, crackling sound in the lungs while breathing in
- Wider and rounder than normal fingertips and toes (clubbing)
What Are Risk Factors?
Health regulations in over the last 50 to 60 years have steadily reduced exposure of workers to asbestos, such that most people with asbestosis had their exposure before the late 1970s. With strict regulations contracting asbestosis on the job now now is extremely unlikely. Nonetheless, many workers in construction and some other industries still face significant workplace exposure.
Here is a list of common products and materials containing asbestos:
- Insulation systems for attic, wall, wood-burning stoves, oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
- Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Plaster, cement, putties and caulk used on wall and ceilings
- Hot water and steam pipe wrapping
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Automobile clutch pads and brake linings
You can find more information about risk factors and work rules designed to protect you against asbestos in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.
When to See Your Doctor
If you have a history of exposure to asbestos and you're experiencing increasing shortness of breath, you should contact your primary care doctor about the possibility of asbestosis. He or she likely will refer you to a doctor specializing in lung problems (pulmonologist).
This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.