Asthma Triggered or Aggravated by Exposure to Asbestos During Active Duty


Because of its affordability, tensile strength, and resistance to heat and chemical damage, asbestos was an ideal material for multiple uses in the shipbuilding industry: insulation surrounding engines, pipes and sleeping quarters, electrical wiring, fireproofing materials, acoustic panels in the flooring and ceiling tiles, protective gear, and others. The toxic material was frequently used throughout ships and in shipyards, where service members worked in tight quarters and breathed in tiny asbestos fibers without knowing the danger they were in.

The adverse pulmonary effects caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers in concentrations that overwhelm the normal pulmonary defense mechanism are well-documented and accepted in scientific circles. Many severe pulmonary diseases which occur as a consequence of exposure to asbestos are very deceptive because the symptoms and the presentation may be identical to those of other respiratory conditions, including asthma.

Asthma is a serious disease, an inflammation of the air passages that result in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 24.6 million people were registered with asthma in 2015, and the number is increasing every year in the U.S.

Most of the Times the Signs of Pleural Mesothelioma Could Be Interpreted as That of Asthma

Many of the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases resemble those of other common lung diseases, such as asthma, including:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing, sometimes just during the night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak

Over time asthma symptoms gradually worsen, especially if the patient was massively exposed to asbestos in the past. In this case, there is a considerable risk for asthma patients to later developing several serious diseases, including:

  • Pleural malignant mesothelioma - cancer of the protective lining of the lungs
  • Lung cancer - scarring of the lung tissues

The rate of misdiagnosis among asbestos victims is perilously high. If you've noticed asthma-like symptoms, and if these are triggered by asbestos exposure, don't ignore the signs and make an urgent appointment with your physician. We highly recommend you to ask for a second, even third opinion.

Asthma tests help your doctor determine the causes and degree of progression of the disease. The most common asthma tests are spirometry, peak flow, and methacholine challenge. A chest X-ray and high-resolution computerized tomography are not asthma tests but are highly recommended especially if a history of asbestos exposure is known. CT scans are able to find lung cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable.

Generally, asbestos-related disease screening consists of a posteroanterior, anteroposterior, and lateral chest X-rays. A B-Reader certified by the NIOSH to assess lung parenchymal and pleural abnormalities related to pneumoconiosis, will examine the chest X-ray and recording certain changes or abnormalities caused by dust inhalation and fibers.

If Asbestos Fibers Are Found in Your Lungs You May Be Entitled to Financial Compensation

Navy veterans who developed life-threatening diseases because of military asbestos exposure are eligible for compensation from asbestos trust funds and VA claims. However, veterans with asbestos-related health issues often complain about the difficulty of filing a claim with the VA to receive benefits for their service-related illnesses.

If initial testing determines whether the disease caused by asbestos exposure is present, regular follow-up testing each year is important due to the long latency period, which means the disease usually does not develop until years after the asbestos exposure that caused it (up to 40 years for mesothelioma).

If you are struggling with asthma symptoms - shortness of breath, chest tightness, or wheezing, there are several tests and procedures to determine the cause, including:

  • Imaging tests
  • Blood marker tests
  • Biopsies

If you are a navy veteran concerned about health effects from exposure to asbestos, you should contact a physician who specializes in environmental medicine. Please feel free to contact us at 760.621.6147 and we will promptly answer any additional questions you may have.

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