Asbestosis is a harmful lung condition that develops in people who have inhaled asbestos dust. When someone inhales the dust, the microscopic asbestos fibres settle in the lungs, where they may cause permanent lung damage as well as chronic breathing symptoms.
One of the unusual things about asbestosis is the long "lag-time" between asbestos exposure and the resulting illness. For example, a year of exposure in youth may not cause symptoms until 30 years later.
Once someone develops asbestosis, there is no cure. Breathing problems will get steadily worse, and in about 15% of people, severe shortness of breath and respiratory failure develop. For someone who smokes and has had asbestos exposure, there is a greatly increased chance of developing lung cancer. Symptoms may appear within 10 years of the initial exposure.
Lung transplantation is the only way to manage end-stage asbestos lung disease, and most people who need it are not eligible candidates because of their advanced age or due to other medical problems.