Asbestos fibers enter the body in the air we breathe. Like other dust particles that we breathe, most of the asbestos fibers are stopped long before they enter the small airways of the lungs. For example, we sometimes choke when we enter a dusty room. We literally cough up the mucus that contains most of the irritating substances. However, because asbestos fibers are so small and thin, many of them pass all the way down to the small airways and air sacs that fill the lung.
Once the fibers are inside the lungs, the body’s defense mechanisms try to break them down and remove them. However, many fibers still remain in the body and are potential disease-causing agents:
- Each fiber is a foreign body and inflammations develop as our bodies try to neutralize, break down or move the sharp, irritating asbestos fibers, just like splinters that get stuck under the skin.
- These processes lead to development of the various kinds of asbestos-caused diseases.