Research shows a severely multiplied risk of lung cancer in smokers who have been exposed to asbestos–as much as 90 times the risk! To complicate matters further are the individual disease risks that come from both exposures, and further yet are the interactions of these diseases when more than one is present.
Smoking is known to cause lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). COPD includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. These diseases cause inflammation of the lungs, airways and alveoli. This produces mucus, swelling of the airways (which swell inwards, narrowing them), and air trapping. Air trapping stretches the fragile alveolar sacs, destroying their unique structure, and ultimately reduces the amount of oxygen entering the blood stream and increasing the carbon dioxide that remains in the bloodstream.
Asbestos can cause asbestosis, a restrictive disease resulting from scar tissue. With restrictive disease the lungs cannot expand fully, and the alveoli, normally a thin membrane, has thickened from scar tissue that can neither expand nor allow gas exchange to occur fast enough to support a healthy state.
A synergistic effect is a multiple, rather than an additive effect. That is, the effects are not just added together, but each condition exaggerates the effects of the other condition so that the results are worse than the sum of the effects of each, alone.
A smoker with a history of asbestos exposure can reduce his risk of lung cancer dramatically. After 10 years of non-smoking, this risk can drop to as little as twice that of the general population.
You can learn more about your options and rights from experienced asbestos lawyers. Please contact Brown | Kiely, LLP for a free initial consultation.