JAN 10, 2017 2:24 PM PST

How Does Asbestos Cause Deadly Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham


If you've ever worked or lived in an old building, you may have encountered a notice about asbestos. This chemical has also made numerous appearances in fear-inducing law commercials urging people to call for compensation. But while we've heard the name here and there, it's time to understand what asbestos really is and why the caution around this chemical is warranted.

Asbestos compounds are minerals that were once praised for its heat resistance, strength, and insulating properties. As such, the compound was extremely popular in the construction of buildings and houses. However, the compound was discovered to be carcinogenic in the 1970s. In particular, scientists found that when breathed into the lungs, asbestos fibers get trapped and cause scarring and inflammation, triggering serious health conditions like mesothelioma - a deadly cancer of the lining of the lung.

While asbestos use was phased out in the 1980s and 1990s, traces of the chemical may still be found in older buildings. Though rare nowadays in the US, cases of mesotheliomas are still rampant in other parts of the world due to unregulated use of materials containing asbestos. Watch the video to learn more!

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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