While trying to understand the deadly effects of asbestos dust, it is important to first understand the difference between long-term, and short-term exposure to it.
1. Long-term exposure – is usually confined to a work situation where over the years working in an environment contaminated with asbestos dust is present.
2. Short-term exposure – is usually when someone is renovating a house and comes into contact with asbestos (a couple of weeks to a few months exposure).
Short-term exposure effects – may be pretty negligible when at a low-level (usually while on a house make-over project [asbestos dangers may not even be seen to be there, although they are actually present for part of the project time]).
However, there should be a concern if the asbestos dust is found to be at a high-level (even though exposure may be short-term), and where medical assistance should be sought if microscopic fibers have been inhaled.
Short-term exposure risks – are seen as being the following: asbestosis (a serious disease of the lungs where permanent scarring from the inhalation of asbestos fibers exists), lung cancer, and mesothelioma (an aggressive cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen).
Evidence does exists that indicates short-term exposure (acute oral) to asbestos dust may provoke precursor lesions of colon cancer, and longer-term “short-term” exposure (chronic oral) may increase the risks of developing gastrointestinal tumors (depending on the level rate of the dust [high/low]).
Exposure to asbestos dust on an even shorter period (minutes – hours) would probably have very negligible effects on the development of cancer (cancer development usually occurs over a long period of time). However, when working in such an environment, safety precautions should be adhered to at all times.
Exposure limits for asbestos dust – should not exceed 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc) of air (over an 8-hour work period) in a working environment. While for shorter-terms should not exceed more than 1 f/cc (over a 30 minute period) to be considered safe.
Warning: Any form of asbestos dust exposure is potentially dangerous; where if found to be present is always considered prudent to call in professionals to remove it in a safe and orderly manner (asbestos symptoms may take as long as between 15 – 40 years before any damage may come to light).