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Sometimes all you need is the air that you breathe - In the Shadow of Leaves
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Sometimes all you need is the air that you breathe
This is just to help clarify a few aspects of things being discussed currently.

Asbestos mainly affects the lungs and the membrane that surrounds the lungs. In the early 1900's, doctors in Europe knew that asbestos workers were dying from respiratory ailments. In 1924, Dr WE Cooke reported in the British Medical Journal cases of pulmonary fibrosis (asbestosis) in workers employed in the asbestos industry. Unfortunately it took many years for this information to be acted on, despite the old knowledge about the effects of coal dust on coal miners.

NOTE THE DIFFERENCE between Asbestosis (a dust disease, like pneumoconiosis or Black Lung in coal miners) and Mesothelioma (a cancer). To develop asbestosis takes breathing fairly high levels of fibre for a fairly long time. To develop mesothelioma you only need a single exposure at a moderate or light level of fibres, though it may then take twenty or more years for the tumour to become apparent.

Asbestosis is widespread scarring of lung tissue caused by breathing asbestos dust.
Breathing high levels of asbestos fibres for a long time may result in scar-like tissue in the lungs and in the pleural membrane (lining) that surrounds the lung. This stiffens the lungs and makes breathing difficult.

People with asbestosis have difficulty breathing, often a cough, and in severe cases heart enlargement, and the disease can eventually lead to disability and death. There is no cure

Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma - Persons exposed to asbestos either within or outside the asbestos industry may, after many years, develop malignant mesothelioma. This cancer occurs in the cells of the pleura covering the surface of the lung and lining the inside of the chest wall and diaphragm. Crocidolite (blue asbestos) has the most potent effect in producing this cancer. This tumour may eventually totally envelope the lung, with a malignant growth sometimes several centimetres thick. The tumour is irreversible, poorly responsive to any current cancer treatments, and often fairly rapidly fatal. It may be accompanied by chest pain, fluid in the chest cavity (pleural effusion) and breathlessness. In rare cases combined surgery and chemotherapy may prolong life. Mesothelioma tumours have no relationship with tobacco smoking.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma - Around the outside of the coils of intestine and also lining the abdominal cavity is a membrane (the peritoneum) similar in character and thickness to the pleura. It is similar tissue to the pleura and, like it, can give rise to a malignant tumour called peritoneal mesothelioma, which is also related to previous asbestos exposure. This disease usually progresses slower thaan pleural mesothlioma..

(Information from the Australian Lung Foundation, HealthInsite - from Department of Health and Ageing, the Merck Manual (2nd Ed), and Cancer Council of Victoria )

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