FAQ’s: What to do if you Have Already Been Exposed to Asbestos

ADAO ResourcesUpdated on February 13, 2015

Exposed to Asbestos?

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. has not banned asbestos. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that at least 10,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos exposure is linked to asbestosis, lung & gastrointestinal cancers, and an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause permanent and irreversible damage to vital organs. Disease occurs 10 – 50 years after exposure. The undiagnosed need to STOP AND THINK about possible occupational or environmental asbestos exposure when asked by their doctors.

Early detection is often difficult; asbestos related disease symptoms are generally vague and can be easily confused with other illnesses such as pneumonia. Only a doctor can properly diagnose asbestos related diseases.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), in conjunction with other government agencies, continues to examine the health effects of asbestos. The ATSDR Web site makes available information already produced on the topic and will provide new information as it becomes available.

What are the Early Warning Symptoms?

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent pain in the lower back, shoulder, or chest wall
  • Shortness of breath
  • Appearance of lump or mass on chest wall
  • New onset of persistent dry cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persisting loss of energy, fatigue or anemia
  • Loosing weight for no apparent reason
  • Onset of hoarseness or a change in voice
  • Persistent swelling of face and/or arms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abdominal pain and or distention
  • Nausea and or vomiting
  • Fluid in the abdominal cavity or in the chest lining

Important Notice: ADAO does not make medical diagnosis, recommend treatment, or answer specific patient questions. Specific concerns should be addressed directly with your treating physician.

What are High Risk Occupations?

Occupations with a high risk of asbestos exposure include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Workers involved in the manufacture of asbestos products
  • Asbestos mining and milling
  • Construction trades (including insulators, sheet metal workers, electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters, and carpenters)
  • Power plant workers
  • Boilermakers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Firefighters
  • Teachers
  • Veterans

FACT SHEETS: High Risk Occupations, Early Warning Symptoms and Prevention



  • High Risk Occupations – French (PDF) – Click Here
  • Early Warning Symptoms – French (PDF) – Click Here
  • Prevention – French (PDF) – Click Here


  • High Risk Occupations – Spanish (PDF) – Click Here
  • Early Warning Symptoms – Spanish (PDF) – Click Here
  • Prevention – Spanish (PDF) – Click Here