What is most dangerous about asbestosis is its propensity to cause mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer. This disease involves chronic fibrosis and inflammation of the lungs brought on by the banned substance, asbestos. These silicate materials were once used in many industries because they offered excellent protection against heat, chemical and structural damage. Over time, though, it became apparent that these minerals were a major threat to anyone exposed to them regularly. Aircraft mechanics and technicians are among the many workers who have suffered major health complications as a result of this exposure.
These minerals, when physically disturbed, shed microscopic, crystalline debris that is readily taken into the lungs during inhalation. These crystals settle in the lungs and remain there permanently. What occurs next is asbestosis. As the harmful material builds up in the lungs, it provokes an immune response from the body. Localized inflammation begins and is chronic, because the body can only slowly remove the debris from the body. Macrophages attempt to absorb and digest the fibers, which stimulates fibroblasts to deposit connective tissue in the area. However, the silicate is extremely resistant to digestion, so the macrophage dies before it can neutralize the threat. Additional macrophages are sent to the area, which draws more fibroblasts to the site, which deposit more connective tissue in the area. Eventually, what remains is a mass of fibrous tissue that can result in lung failure or cancerous growths. What is also deadly about asbestosis is its resistance to treatment. There is no cure for the disease, and the only way to treat the symptoms is respiratory physical therapy.
Aircraft mechanics and technicians are among the largest groups of workers afflicted by this disease. Until the product was banned, silicate minerals were used in many different parts in aircraft designs. Its protective qualities, particularly its resistance to heat, were perfect for the stresses that most aircraft are put under during flight. It was most often used as an electrical insulator and heat insulator in the engine and brakes of the plane. What is frightening about asbestosis is that there is no way to tell when it is forming, and most of the people working on these planes likely had no idea. Whenever the plane would employ its brakes, the silicate would be subjected to friction and worn. This loosened silicate debris, which could easily be inhaled by anyone servicing the brakes.
Also, silicates were often used in the epoxies that held many parts of the plane together. This provided a stronger bond between the parts. However, when these parts were removed for replacement or repair, the silicate dust in the epoxies could come free and disperse into the air. What is frustrating about asbestosis is its long development period before it begins to show symptoms. It differs from person to person and can take decades to show up. As a result, many victims are just now realizing they have the disease.
Any current or former airplane mechanic or technician who has been diagnosed with this disease should consider contacting an attorney experienced in the area as soon as possible. The case history involving asbestosis and mesothelioma is extensive, so there is a strong possibility that a victim will be able to receive compensation for their suffering.