Shortness of breath, a persistent mucus-producing cough, pain and tightness in the chest, unexplained weight loss, and blood clotting abnormalities are symptoms of asbestos exposure-related illnesses, according to WebMD. Anemia, fever, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling and bowel obstruction can be signs of lung cancer or mesothelioma caused by asbestos.
While asbestos-exposure symptoms are most commonly seen in the respiratory tract, mesothelioma can affect the abdomen, explains WebMD. Abdominal mesothelioma can take up to 30 years to manifest after initial exposure. Lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure may not develop until 15 years later. Asbestosis is an inflammation in the lungs that leads to scarring that interferes with breathing. Sometimes the membranes that surround the lungs thicken, or fluid builds up between the lungs and the chest wall.
Asbestos use is common in industries such as construction and automobile manufacturing because the mineral-based fibers are impervious to fire, heat and chemicals, explains WebMD. If disturbed, these microscopic fibers are released into the air, and once inhaled, they lodge in the lungs, remaining there for many years. If enough fibers accumulate, serious health problems can occur. While most asbestos poisoning is seen in workers with direct exposure, limited evidence suggests that some workers family members are at risk for mesothelioma when asbestos fibers are brought into the home on the clothing and body of heavily exposed workers.