Asbestos is a family of naturally occurring silicates whose heat-resistant and structural properties made it useful for inclusion in construction and shipbuilding materials, automobile brakes, and some textiles. Asbestos is present naturally in low levels in the air, water, and soil; this low level of environmental exposure is not a significant contributor to human disease. Chrysotile (a serpentine fiber), crocidolite, and amosite (amphibole, or straight fibers) are the 3 main types of asbestos that cause disease. Chrysotile fiber accounts for 99% of the asbestos used worldwide. Amphibole fibers account for 1% and are mainly in vermiculite mines.
Asbestos can affect the lung, the pleura, or both.
Asbestos-related disorders are caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers. The disorders include
Nonmalignant pleural plaque formation and thickening
Asbestos-related plaques and fibrosis are the most common radiographic findings and account for > 90% of asbestos-related pleural findings.Asbestosis and mesothelioma both cause progressive dyspnea, as do extensive effusions and plaques.
(See also Overview of Environmental Pulmonary Disease Overview of Environmental Pulmonary Disease Environmental pulmonary diseases result from inhalation of dusts, allergens, chemicals, gases, or environmental pollutants. The lungs are continually exposed to the external environment and... read more .)