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Asbestosis is a chronic (long-term) lung disease caused by breathing in asbestos fibres. Asbestos is a heat-resistant mineral that used to be common in insulation, vinyl floor tiles, cement, brake linings and other products. If you breathe a lot of asbestos fibres over a long time it can cause scarring in the lungs and shortness of breath.

What causes asbestosis?

Asbestosis is caused by breathing in tiny asbestos fibres. When asbestos is cut, ground up or disturbed, tiny asbestos fibres can fly into the air and stay in the air for a long time. When people breathe in tiny asbestos fibres, they get stuck deep in the lungs. The asbestos fibres damage the alveoli, tiny air sacs at the end of your breathing passages where the oxygen is exchanged with carbon dioxide.

The asbestos fibres make the alveoli stiff with scars and make it very difficult for lungs to take in oxygen.

If you smoke and you breathe in asbestos, you may get asbestosis faster.

Symptoms

It can take 20 or 30 years from the time people started breathing in asbestos to the time they first notice symptoms. The lung damage is permanent.

Prevention

If you work in a job that still uses asbestos, be sure to wear all the protective gear you need and follow safety procedures to reduce your risk of exposure.

Diagnosis

There are a few things your doctor will need to know to make a diagnosis of asbestosis.

Treatment

Currently, there is no medication to stop the damage from asbestos. It may be possible to slow down the disease and decrease symptoms.