Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Prolonged exposure to these fibers can cause lung tissue scarring and shortness of breath. Asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe, and usually don't appear until many years after continued exposure. Occupational exposure is the most common cause of asbestosis, but the condition also strikes people who inhale asbestos fiber or who are exposed to waste products from plants near their homes. Family members can develop the disease as a result of inhaling particles of asbestos dust that cling to workers' clothes.
Screening of at-risk workers can reveal lung inflammation and lesions characteristic of asbestosis. Patients' medical histories can identify occupations, hobbies, or other situations likely to involve exposure to asbestos fibers. X rays can show shadows or spots on the lungs or an indistinct or shaggy outline of the heart that suggests the presence of asbestosis.The goal of treatment is to help patients breathe more easily, prevent colds and other respiratory infections, and control complications associated with advanced disease.
Ultrasonic, cool-mist humidifiers or controlled coughing can loosen bronchial secretions. Regular exercise helps maintain and improve lung capacity. Although temporary bed rest may be recommended, patients are encouraged to resume their regular activities as soon as they can.
During the 20th century, up to 9.5 million tonnes of asbestos were consumed in Germany, with annual usage peaking around 1980 at 440,000 tonnes. Three decades later, thousands of Germans with asbestos-related diseases find themselves caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare which leaves the vast majority unacknowledged and unsupported.