Recognising the Signs of Asbestos Poisoning 

asbestos in lungs

As we’ve previously discussed, asbestos is an incredibly dangerous material. Over long exposure, it causes numerous illnesses, including several forms of cancer. Because of this risk, asbestos is a serious health hazard, and it must be removed as soon as possible to protect people’s health. 

As part of our goal of teaching people useful and possibly life-saving skills, APT Health and Safety have put together this great article on how to recognise asbestos poisoning. 

In order to truly get a good grasp on how to safely minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos, as well as to earn an asbestos awareness certificate, we recommend you complete one of our UKATA asbestos awareness courses. These courses have been designed with advice from the UK Asbestos Training Association in mind, and offer professional certification upon completion. 

How To Recognise Asbestos Poisoning

There are five main signs which indicate asbestos poisoning. Generally, these symptoms all centre around the respiratory system. This is because asbestos fibres tend to enter the body when a person is breathing them in. 

While these symptoms are not definite proof that someone has been exposed to asbestos, asbestos poisoning is one possible cause. As such, it’s important to check both your home and work environment if you recognise these symptoms. 

These symptoms are: 


The first symptom of asbestos poisoning is fatigue, particularly in combination with any of the other symptoms listed below. 

In the circumstance where the patient has asbestos poisoning, fatigue is an indication that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This is caused by the asbestos fibres which have found their way into your lungs. Either the fibres themselves are stopping the oxygen from entering your bloodstream or scar tissue developed as a result of the fibres.  

Swollen Fingertips

Swollen fingertips or clubbing happens as a result of inflammation in the tissue. There are a number of causes for this inflammation, including gout, pregnancy, arthritis, and asbestos poisoning. Depending on the location of the clubbing, you may experience stiffness or pain when trying to move your fingers. 

Clubbing is an indication of long-term asbestos poisoning, indicating that a person was exposed to asbestos 10 – 40 years previously. 

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is an indication of the presence of asbestos fibres in the lungs. It suggests that over long-term exposure scar tissue developed. This is a condition called asbestosis, and it can make breathing difficult over long periods of time. 


Wheezing is a clear cause for concern, particularly if you don’t smoke. It’s an indication of inflammation in the lung tissue caused by the asbestos fibres, which has led to a whistling sound. 

Persistent Dry Cough

Finally, a persistent dry cough is an indication of asbestos poisoning. Like swollen fingertips, it usually presents itself far after the initial exposure 

Treatment For Asbestos Poisoning

If you or anyone on your crew recognise any of these symptoms and have worked near asbestos, they should speak to a doctor immediately. The doctor should do a thorough assessment, including a chest x-ray, a CT scan of the lungs, and a lung function test. 

Unfortunately, there’s no one treatment for asbestos poisoning. Most of the damage is caused as a result of the lung’s contact with the abrasive fibres. That damage cannot heal until those fibres are removed from the patient’s respiratory system – which is unfortunately impossible with current medical technology. 

Instead, the doctor will give the patient a range of exercises and treatments to manage the symptoms and help them maintain their current quality of life. 

Some of these treatments include:

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a system of exercises designed to increase the patient’s muscle strength, help them cope with shortness of breath, and improve their general fitness level. This system has been designed so that the patient can continue to maintain their current quality of life. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation usually takes place over 6 – 8 weeks and is done in groups. 

Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy involves breathing in oxygen-rich air through a mask or a nasal cannula. This treatment will make it easier to breathe, lowering the stress on the patient’s lungs and heart. 


If the symptoms are relatively mild, the doctor will prescribe the patient an inhaler, similar to the one used by people suffering from asthma. This will help ease the shortness of breath, wheezing, and persistent dry cough. 

Other Tips

Regardless of which 

Contact APT for HSA Courses in Stoke On Trent

Asbestos awareness is a key part of maintaining a site’s overall health and safety awareness, particularly in the construction and civil engineering industries. 

APT Health and Safety offer a diverse range of HSA courses in Stoke-On-Trent. This range of courses includes asbestos awareness training, emergency first aid at work and paediatric first aid training courses, and fire marshal training. We offer both in-person and online courses, ensuring that you and your colleagues can learn in a way that suits your organisation’s needs. 

Contact APT today for more information about our range of health and safety, fire marshal, and first aid courses in Stoke On Trent.

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Kelly Raboutot

Kelly Raboutot