Can these home repairs cause lung cancer?
If you’re someone who takes pride in tackling do-it-yourself home or car repairs, it may be a good idea for you to stay on top of your lung health – especially if either your home or your car can be considered a classic.
That’s because many types of building materials made before 1970 and some car brakes parts may contain asbestos, which is linked to lung cancers mesothelioma and asbestosis. Between the two, these rare cancers kill as many as 18,000 people a year.
“Lung cancer is not limited to people who smoke. Exposure to air contaminants at work and at home can also play a role in lung health,” said Dr. Senora Nelson, a family medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital, in Chicago.
Asbestosis and mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos. Both rare forms of cancer often prove fatal because they tend to be diagnosed at late stages when symptoms become severe – usually 10 to 30 years after asbestos exposure.
“Lung cancer can be treatable if detected early,” Dr. Nelson said, adding that lung cancer screenings can open the door for potentially life-extending therapies, since the early signs of lung cancer often go unnoticed.
Early warning signs of asbestosis and mesothelioma include a cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or shoulder, chest or abdominal pain. As the cancer progresses, these symptoms may grow to become more severe. Sometimes lung cancer initially appears as throat, stomach and / or colon issues.
“If there’s a chance you’ve been exposed to asbestos, or if you live with someone who may have been exposed, it’s important that you see your doctor regularly to watch for any telltale, early signs of lung cancer,” Dr. Nelson said.
Asbestos consists of tiny fibers made of stone. These fibers are too small to see without a microscope. Yet when they become airborne – typically when asbestos-containing products are moved, cracked or damaged by water – these tiny fibers can be inhaled and pose a serious health hazard. Asbestos fibers can remain airborne for days.
Examples of products that could contain asbestos include
- Roofing and siding made of asbestos cement
- Housing insulation in dwellings built between 1930 and 1950
- Textured paint and patching compounds made / installed before 1977
- Hot water and steam pipes in older homes, as well as coatings, blankets and tape covering them.
- Brake pads, linings, clutch facings and gaskets for cars
Dr. Nelson recommends talking to your primary care physician about lung cancer screening, if you believe you have been exposed to asbestos at home, or if you work in a factory, construction site or other industrial environment.
About the Author
Cassie Richardson, health enews contributor, is regional coordinator on Advocate Aurora Health's Public Affairs team. She has more than 10 years of experience in health care communications, marketing, media and public relations. Cassie is a fan of musical theater and movies. When she’s not spreading the word about health and wellness advancements, she enjoys writing fiction.