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Date of last update: 10/21/2017.

Forum Name: Lung Cancer

Question: Brake shoes & asbestos

 dranderhilt81 - Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:25 pm

I am a 25 year old male, and for the last year I have been having chest pains. It's on the daily basis and the pain varies on where it hits. I have never been good at describing pain, such as sharp, dull etc.., but I do believe it is getting a bit worse.

To give some background. I have ate poorly for most of my life, so when I had the pain I checked the dcotor for heart problems. I have had a blood test done, urine test, that echo test(they send sound or something through your chest) and I have had x-rays. So far the only thing we've found out is that I have a low iron level, so I am still going for more tests.

However, there is another piece of the puzzle that I should mention. For four years, I was working with brake shoes, and I was told that they don't use asbestos, nowadays. But I am not a 100% trusting of the source of this info, and
I don't know how old those brake shoes are. I did wear a mask sometimes, but othertimes they didn't have them. I did some research and went back to the doctor to book a lung test. He told me that it won't show up until at least 20 years.
But I forgot to ask him some questions, so I was wondering if you could give me some information before my next appointment.

Is there something I can do to find out what's causing my pain? Or at least narrow down the possibilities.
Can asbestos affect me after four years if I had a lot of exposure to it?
In layman's terms, what else could be causing this?
thx for any help.
 Dr. A. De la Guerra - Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:54 pm

User avatar Hi dranderhilt81,

Sorry for not answering earlier. Chest pain has many causes, of cardiac and non-cardiac origin. In young adults, without previous cardiac illness, pain is usually related to musculoskeletal problems (chest wall origin), gastrointestinal diseases (acid reflux), and anxiety (or depression). Chest pain originating in the chest wall (ribs, sternum, articulations, and muscles) is frequent among young adults, and costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone, is the most common cause. Acute irritation of the pleura can also cause severe pain. Although, the pain caused by the conditions described usually resolves in a few weeks; mild pain may persist only associated with some body positions or movements, and no further than 6 months.

About your concern on brake components containing asbestos, is true that many auto manufacturers do not use asbestos in brakes any longer, but not all. Due to some regulations, asbestos is still used in brake and clutch linings. Products in which asbestos fibers are well bound in the material are permitted, including disc brake pads, drum brake linings, and brake blocks. And, it is hard to tell if brake components contain asbestos, because product information on labels and safety data sheets only report asbestos content if it is more than 1% of the piece; for older cars or with replaced brakes is still harder.

Almost every country in the world has laws and regulations protecting from workplace exposure to asbestos. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), from the U.S. Department of Labor, established the exposure limit to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. During brake repair, dust containing asbestos fibers can be inhaled, and dust masks do not protect from this. There are other preventive measures and control methods, recommended by and under OSHA regulations.

Regarding your question on the amount and duration of asbestos exposure until symptoms develops; asbestos diseases are generally dose dependent, associated with prolonged exposure, on average 20 years. Though, time frame varies from around a year (some pleural diseases) to more than 40 years (mesothelioma). Occasionally, short, severe exposure to asbestos is enough to cause harm. Asbestos can cause cancer and benign (but serious) diseases. Most common cancers are lung cancer and mesotelioma, a deadly cancer of the pleura, the thin membrane investing the lungs (visceral pleura) and lining the walls of the chest cavity (parietal pleura). Benign asbestos-related diseases are: asbestosis or fibrosis of the lung (lung scarring), benign asbestos-related pleural diseases, and airway obstruction (chronic obstructive airway disease).

There are four types of benign asbestos-related pleural diseases: pleural effusions (fluid in the pleural space), fibrosis involving the visceral pleura (diffuse pleural thickening), fibrosis of the parietal pleura (pleural plaques), and rounded atelectasis (collapse of the lung). These are the most common benign asbestos-related diseases.

Chest pain is not unusual in asbestos-exposed people, frequently described as a vague chest discomfort. Persistent severe pain is a rare complication of benign asbestos-related pleural disease, and usually there is radiographic evidence of either lung or pleural disease. Also, pleural thickening not related to asbestos exposure is common, generally due to past infections.

Plain chest radiographs are limited detecting cases of mild asbestos diseases. Currently, computed tomography is the gold standard for the detection of benign asbestos-related pleural diseases, and identifies pleural thickening not visible on the plain radiographs.

As you can tell, with the information at hand it is not possible to determine if your pain is asbestos-related or not. Remember that chest pain is very common and most often caused by a benign condition. I suggest you to get an appointment with an occupational physician or pulmonologist to rule out an asbestos-related disease.

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