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Unfortunately, while the use of asbestos has been heavily restricted since the early 1970's, recent studies have estimated that its effects will continue to affect the health of asbestos workers, workers in industries who were exposed to asbestos and their families for years to come. Exposure to asbestos usually occurs by breathing contaminated air in workplaces that make or use asbestos. Asbestos is also found in the air of buildings containing asbestos that are being torn down or renovated.

Asbestos exposure can cause serious lung problems and cancer. Asbestos mainly affects the lungs and the membrane that surrounds the lungs. Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers for a long time may result in scar-like tissue in the lungs and in the pleural membrane (lining) that surrounds the lung. This disease is called asbestosis and is usually found in workers exposed to asbestos, but not in the general public.

People with asbestosis have difficulty breathing, often a cough, and in severe cases heart enlargement. Asbestosis is a serious disease and can eventually lead to disability and death. Breathing lower levels of asbestos may result in changes called plaques in the pleural membranes. Pleural plaques can occur in workers and sometimes in people living in areas with high environmental levels of asbestos.

There are two types of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos: lung cancer and Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the thin lining surrounding the lung or abdominal cavity. Cancer from asbestos does not develop immediately, but shows up after a number of years.