What is asbestos poisoning?

13 July 2022

Asbestos poisoning, or asbestos-related disease, is an extremely dangerous problem caused by asbestos exposure. Learn about asbestosis and more here.

Kiwis know that having asbestos in your home or workplace can be highly dangerous, but not everyone understands exactly why or how this substance can be harmful to us. 

Sadly, asbestos has been a common building materials in New Zealand homes in the past, making it more common in older properties around the country. 

Let’s take a closer look at the danger that asbestos poses, and therefore why it’s vital to manage or remove it should you ever discover it at your house or work.

What is abestos poisoning?

Asbestos poisoning is the range of illnesses and diseases that stem from asbestos exposure. 

In New Zealand, asbestos-related illnesses take as many as 170 lives per year

One of the most common is asbestosis, a non-cancerous, chronic lung disease where there is scarring of the lung tissue that makes it progressively more difficult to breathe.

Other serious issues include lung cancer, pleural disease (thickening of the lining of the lungs), and mesothelioma (cancer in the lining of the lungs and other organs). 

The more fibres you inhale and the longer you inhale them for, the more severe the problems become. 

There is zero ‘safe’ amount of asbestos that you can inhale, so even minimal amounts of asbestos are considered to be very dangerous for your health. 

What are the signs and symptoms of asbestos poisoning?

There are a number of common symptoms of asbestos poisoning to be aware of. These include: 

  • A dry cough or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • A cracking sound when breathing
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Respiratory issues 

Aside from affecting the lungs, other symptoms that might affect the rest of the body include: 

  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling 
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Clubbed fingers

If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos and are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. 

Can you treat asbestos poisoning?

Unfortunately, asbestosis is irreversible and untreatable. 

There are various options to help manage the symptoms of asbestosis, including oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and the use of an inhaler. 

It is also highly recommended to stop smoking immediately if you are a smoker, and to stay up to date with vaccines, as the flu or covid can worsen the symptoms of asbestosis. 

There are various treatment and management plans to help with other asbestos-related disease, such as chemotherapy for lung cancer. As with most illnesses, treatment is most effective when the illness is caught early.

Related: 3 signs you should have your home or business checked for asbestos.

Expert asbestos removal

If you have asbestos in your business or at home, a professional asbestos removal team is best equipped to either seal off the asbestos, or remove it completely. 

PRO Environmental Services is highly skilled and experienced in asbestos removal of all kinds, and we operate across the bottom of the North Island and the top of the South Island, including the Wellington region, Gisborne, and the West Coast.  

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation quote for asbestos removal.