Asbestos Exposure Report
MEDICAL EFFECTS OF ASBESTOS EXPOSURE
Knowledge of the medical effects of asbestos has accumulated slowly since the turn of the century and it is now universally agreed that the exposure of men and women to asbestos fibres can, in certain circumstances, lead to three diseases: asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma of the pleura or peritoneum.
It can certainly also cause a group of benign conditions of the pleura of variable importance, and it may cause a group of other cancers, including cancers of the larynx, gastro- intestinal tract, and kidney, and conceivably a wide range of others. Some of the features of these conditions are, we believe, beyond dispute and we describe them briefly here, without giving detailed evidence in support. Contentious matters (of which there are many) are left to later chapters.
Benign conditions of the pleura
The benign conditions of the pleura that are produced by asbestos are seldom of any lasting importance. Pleural effusions may cause temporary disability, but they invariably resolve. Diffuse pleural thickening, which may follow an effusion or may develop without an effusion ever having been detected, is usually asymptomatic. It may rarely cause constriction of the lungs with impairment of function and, in extreme cases, consequent disablement.
Lesser degrees of thickening, diagnosed radiographically, provide suggestive evidence of exposure to support the diagnosis of asbestos-induced disease in the lungs or elsewhere. They can, however, be produced in other ways and are far from diagnostic. Calcified pleural plaques, which are strongly indicative of exposure, are late findings and no help in the diagnosis of early cases. None of these benign pleural conditions will be considered further.