Update on Asbestos: Smoking and Lung Diseases

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When asbestos is disrupted and the particles are inhaled, they may become lodged in the lungs, potentially leading to lung cancer, bronchial cancer, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related pulmonary diseases such as asbestosis, pulmonary fibrosis, diffuse pleural thickening, tuberculosis, pleural effusion, histoplasmosis, pleural plaques, COPD, pleurisy, lung spots, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pneumonitis, and rounded atelectasis.

Inhaling nicotine and other toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke causes severe damage to the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system, and can eventually lead to cancer.

In combination, smoking and asbestos exposure have a synergistic effect, meaning asbestos and smoking together cause pulmonary issues at a high incidence rate.

Asbestos Exposure and Smoking: A Multiplicative Effect in Increasing the Risks of Developing Asbestos-Related Pulmonary Diseases

Smoking can harm the tissue of the lungs, thereby creating an environment where asbestos fibers can become more easily trapped and embedded. Smoking cigarettes combined with the inflammation and scarring of the lungs due to asbestos fibers accelerate the deleterious effects on your lungs.

Smoking and Asbestosis

While cigarette smoking alone does not cause asbestosis, it is one of several factors that can increase the risk of inflammation and scarring of the lungs associated with asbestosis for someone who inhaled high levels of asbestos fibers.

Asbestosis is a progressive lung condition that develops after you have been exposed to substantial quantities of asbestos fibers, usually over long periods of time. Some researchers believe that smokers have an elevated risk of developing asbestosis because smokers' lungs are already damaged from cigarettes and face additional irritation, inflammation, and scarring from the toxic fibers.

The damage to the lungs from smoking ultimately allows more asbestos fibers in the lungs, leading to the rapid development of asbestosis. According to a variety of studies over the last two decades, the presence of asbestosis is a reliable diagnostic marker that a patient was exposed to asbestos enough to develop lung cancer.

Smoking and Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer

Asbestos exposure and smoking can each put you at significant risk of lung cancer. A combination of the two, however, creates the worst-case scenario. While many people recognize the health risks of tobacco use and the health risks associated with asbestos exposure separately, most do not realize the combination of smoking and asbestos increases the chances of lung cancer more than either instance on its own.

For example, a smoker with a 10-20 cigarettes per day habit for 20 years, has a 10 fold increased risk of developing lung cancer over a non-smoker. A non-smoking asbestos-exposed veteran has a 5 fold increased risk of developing lung conditions over a non-smoker not exposed to asbestos. However, a person with a 20-year pack history and heavy asbestos exposure has a 50 to 80 fold increased risk of developing lung cancer over a non-smoking, non-asbestos-exposed person.

Smoking and Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma - a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops in the pleura - the lining of the chest wall and lungs - is caused by asbestos, and this is the only known cause of the condition. While cigarette smoking alone does not cause mesothelioma, it is one of several factors that can increase the risk of developing pleural mesothelioma for someone who has been exposed to asbestos.

Despite knowing the health hazards of asbestos exposure, hundreds of companies continued to use asbestos and asbestos-containing products knowingly or negligently exposing shipyard workers. As a result, millions of shipyard workers and Navy veterans were exposed to large amounts of asbestos during their time of service, putting them at risk for developing mesothelioma 10 to 50 years later. If these veterans and workers have been or are current smokers, their chances of developing pleural mesothelioma can double - or even triple.

Call Us Today if You or One of Your Parents Served in the Navy in the 1900s

In the 1970s the Navy began to limit the amount of asbestos to which servicemen and women were exposed, however, the damage had already been done - thousands of Navy personnel had already been exposed to the miracle mineral.

If you are a Navy veteran who struggles with a pulmonary disease caused by military asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for compensation even if you do have a history of smoking. For more information, contact us at 760.621.6147.

Questions about asbestos exposure? We can help!

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