(855) 575-6376

Can a One-Time Exposure to Asbestos Be Harmful?

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on March 10, 2020

Asbestos is a dangerous substance naturally occurring as one of Earth’s minerals. Researchers have confirmed its carcinogenic properties and have warned that no amount of asbestos is safe for humans. For decades, scientists have recognized the risks of developing conditions such as terminal cancers and asbestosis due to asbestos exposure. These risks led to a federal ban on all products containing asbestos in the 1970s.

If you believe you might have been exposed to asbestos at one time in your life, do not panic. The odds of developing a life-threatening condition from one-time exposure are low. If the event was extreme, however, such as the 9/11 terrorist attack that sent hundreds of tons of toxic dust into the air, the risk is higher. Monitor yourself for possible symptoms of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness if you fear exposure. See a doctor right away if you notice anything unusual and then consider speaking with a qualified New York asbestos lawyer from the Williams Law Firm to learn your available legal options.

How Does Asbestos Exposure Work?

Asbestos particles can be invisible to the naked eye. They may float through the air after a building collapses or a construction project unearths old materials containing the mineral. Many building materials, including insulation and drywall, used asbestos before the federal ban due to its fire-resistant properties. You might face exposure to asbestos today if you are in a disaster such as a structural collapse or if you work in construction. If you worked in an industry such as architecture, shipbuilding, firefighting or auto repair before the ban, your job might have exposed you to asbestos years ago.

Asbestos causes illnesses by minuscule particles lodging in the lining of the lungs (the mesothelium) and other organs. Asbestos particles can enter the body by breathing them in through the nose or mouth, or by applying products that may contain asbestos to the private parts, such as baby powder. Most people do not realize they are inhaling or ingesting asbestos at the time of exposure. Instead, they recognize asbestos exposure years later, when the tiny particles have irritated the tissues enough to lead to tumors or other health problems.

Is One-Time Exposure Harmful?

It is possible to develop an illness such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural effusions or lung cancer after a one-time exposure to asbestos if the exposure was significant enough to lead to asbestos particles lodging in the body’s tissues. The 9/11 attack is a common example. The collapse of the Twin Towers sent plumes containing over 400 tons of toxic substances – including asbestos – into the air of New York City. Survivors, first responders and those in the area at the time may have breathed in enough asbestosis in this isolated event to have health problems later.

In general, however, a one-time exposure to asbestos will not be enough to cause lasting health problems to the individual. Exposure to a small amount of asbestos just one time might not result in the victim inhaling or swallowing enough dust for health issues to arise. It typically takes millions of microscopic asbestos fibers to accumulate in a person’s lungs to damage the tissues and cause diseases. Those who worked with or around asbestos regularly, therefore, are most at risk.

Symptoms of Asbestos-Related Illnesses

Although most common after extreme or prolonged exposure, it is possible to contract an asbestos-related disease after any degree or amount of exposure to this toxic mineral. Unfortunately, victims will not realize they have ingested or inhaled asbestos until years later – after the particles have already caused diseases. It could take 10 to 40 years or longer for a victim to notice symptoms. These symptoms can include trouble breathing, respiratory issues, dry or persistent cough, fatigue, weight loss, high blood pressure and difficulty swallowing. If you notice any potential symptoms of an asbestos-related illness, see a doctor right away.