Asbestosis is a chronic (long-term) lung disease caused by breathing in asbestos fibres. Asbestos is a heat-resistant mineral that used to be common in insulation, vinyl floor tiles, cement, brake linings and other products. If you breathe a lot of asbestos fibres over a long time it can cause scarring in the lungs and shortness of breath.

What causes asbestosis?

Asbestosis is caused by breathing in tiny asbestos fibres. When asbestos is cut, ground up or disturbed, tiny asbestos fibres can fly into the air and stay in the air for a long time. When people breathe in tiny asbestos fibres, they get stuck deep in the lungs. The asbestos fibres damage the alveoli, tiny air sacs at the end of your breathing passages where the oxygen is exchanged with carbon dioxide. 

The asbestos fibres make the alveoli stiff with scars and make it very difficult for lungs to take in oxygen. 

If you smoke and you breathe in asbestos, you may get asbestosis faster.

Page Last Updated: 09/06/2016