If you are in the construction business or employed by an industry that uses products containing asbestos, you may wonder “Are asbestos fibers visible to the eye”? Generally asbestos fibers are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it has broken down into small fibers and is inhaled. It is nearly impossible to detect the presence of asbestos without taking the material to a lab for testing. A lab technician will put the material under a microscope to search for asbestos fibers. Asbestos does not cause an immediate reaction. It will not cause you to cough, sneeze, or your eyes to water. You cannot see, smell, or taste asbestos. If you skin becomes contaminated with asbestos it will not burn or itch.
Asbestos related diseases have a very long latency period. This is the time frame from when you are first exposed to asbestos until you become ill. Most persons do not become ill for at least ten years after exposure and some not until over forty years later. Asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma are all asbestos related diseases. Asbestosis occurs when asbestos fibers enter the lungs. The body will naturally produce an acid to combat the fibers. However, this acid can cause scarring in the tissue of the lungs and in advanced stages breathing becomes more difficult and painful. Asbestosis was first documented in shipyard workers. Asbestos can also cause lung cancer. If a person smokes and is exposed to asbestos, they have a much greater chance of developing lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that has only been linked to asbestos exposure. It is a cancer of the cells that line the peritoneum (area surrounding the abdominal organs) and the pleura (area outside of the lungs and inside of the ribs).
There is a lot of debate and controversy surrounding which types of asbestos is harmful. Some types of asbestos are thought to be more dangerous than others but all types of asbestos exposure should be avoided. Actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, chrysotile (white asbestos), and tremolite are all types of asbestos. Chrysotile is the type of asbestos most commonly used in manufacturing products.
Asbestos fibers are not visible to the eye. If you feel you may have been exposed to asbestos, the most common method for testing is a chest x-ray. The x-ray will not show the asbestos fibers but it can spot early signs of lung disease. There is no known cure for asbestos related diseases.