Asbestos is a group of minerals found in nature and is used as part of many building structures. As a material, it is strong, heat resistant and inexpensive. However, asbestos can be dangerous and has been shown to cause cancer. Asbestos can enter your body through the eyes or lungs and primarily targets the respiratory system.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
How Asbestos Gets in the Eyes
Asbestos exposure to the eyes occurs when asbestos-containing materials is disturbed and the fibers become airborne. Asbestos can get in eyes during home remodeling, when construction workers are renovating or razing a building. People, such as custodians, who work in areas of old buildings where asbestos may be present are at risk of asbestos exposure. The best way to avoid getting asbestos in your eyes is to wear protective safety glasses 2.
- Asbestos exposure to the eyes occurs when asbestos-containing materials is disturbed and the fibers become airborne.
- People, such as custodians, who work in areas of old buildings where asbestos may be present are at risk of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Particles on the Surface of the Eye
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Asbestos can irritate your eyes like any foreign body or dust particle. Because asbestos is a silicate, if it gets into your eyes it can cause them to become irritated. The level of irritation can be minimal to extreme, depending upon the amount of asbestos that enters the eye. Symptoms of asbestos in the eye include:
- sensitivity to light
- Asbestos can irritate your eyes like any foreign body or dust particle.
- Because asbestos is a silicate, if it gets into your eyes it can cause them to become irritated.
Asbestos Particles Embedded in the Eye
Though not common, asbestos particles can penetrate and become lodged inside the eye. There may be little or even no symptoms initially. If you think you have asbestos in your eye, rinse your eye with an eyewash or pure water (even if you do not feel anything in your eye). Resist the temptation to pluck or pull anything that may be embedded out. Instead, seek help from an eye care professional as soon as possible. Eyes will usually heal quickly once the asbestos fibers are removed. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to help speed healing and avoid infection.
- Though not common, asbestos particles can penetrate and become lodged inside the eye.
- If you think you have asbestos in your eye, rinse your eye with an eyewash or pure water (even if you do not feel anything in your eye).
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- National Cancer Institute: Asbestos Exposure and Risk
- Chemical Safety Data: Asbestos
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Clinical Screening Guidelines for Asbestos-Related Disease.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Asbestos.
- Camargo, M. et al. Occupational exposure to asbestos and ovarian cancer: a meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2011. 119(9):1211-7.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Asbestosis-related years of potential life lost before age 65 years – United States, 1968-2005. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2008. 57(49:1321-5.
- Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos. Updated 12/04/16. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos
- Fasola, G. et al. Low-dose computed tomography screening for lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma in an asbestos-exposed population: baseline results of a prospective, nonrandomized feasibility trial – an Alpe-andria Thoracic Oncology Multidisciplinary Group Study (ATOM 001). Oncologist. 2007. 12(10):1215-24.
- Jamrozik, E., deKlerk, N., and A. Musk. Asbestos-related disease. Internal Medicine Journal. 2011. 41(4):372-80.
- Liu, G., Cheresh, P., and D. Kamp. Molecular basis of asbestos-induced lung disease. Annual Reviews in Pathology. 2013. 24(8):161-87.
- Markowitz, S. et al. Asbestos, asbestosis, smoking, and lung cancer. New findings from the north American insulator cohort. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2013. 188(1):90-6.
- Przakova, S. et al. Asbestos and the lung in the 21st century: an update. The Clinical Respiratory Journal. 2013 May 27. (Epub ahead of print)
- Roberts, H. et al. Screening for malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer in individuals with a history of asbestos exposure. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2009. 4(5):620-8.
- Wender, R. et al. American Cancer Society lung cancer screening guidelines. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2013. 63(2):102-7.
Beth Richards, a freelance writer since 2002, writes about health and draws from her 25 years as a licensed dispensing optician. She has authored several books, writes for national magazines including "Country Living" and "Organic Family" and is a health and wellness features writer for several publications. She is earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland.