By now, the science is crystal clear on one thing: Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma. However, asbestos exposure can also lead to other diseases. In fact, researchers continue to find new evidence of connections between asbestos exposure and other diseases.
One of the most recent discoveries is a clear tie between asbestos exposure and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). A study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine clarified that asbestos exposure did not appear to be responsible on its own. But it served as part of a deadly mix of genetic and environmental factors.
Asbestos exposure and IPF
In its review of the study, Pulmonary Fibrosis News noted that the exact cause of IPF remains unclear. Instead, the study suggests that asbestos exposure serves as one of three key risk factors:
- Genetics (specifically, variations in the gene MUC5Brs35705950)
- Asbestos exposure
The study found that asbestos exposure, on its own, did not correspond to a higher risk for IPF. However, once you added a history of cigarette use, asbestos exposure nearly doubled the risk. This risk became even greater for people who had mutations in the associated gene. In short, these three factors created a “three-way interaction” that significantly increased someone’s chances of developing the disease.
Other asbestos-related diseases
This recent study does little to change our greater concerns about asbestos and asbestos exposure. Scientists have known for nearly a century that asbestos can cause cancer. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), identify at least nine other asbestos-related diseases, including:
- Pleural disease (a non-cancerous condition)
- Lung cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pharyngeal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colon cancer
The study suggests that we might add IPF to this list. That said, until researchers better identify the role asbestos plays, IPF victims may have a harder time seeking compensation for their suffering than the victims of other diseases, such as mesothelioma.
Why is mesothelioma different?
There are several ways that mesothelioma differs from IPF and other asbestos-related diseases, but there is one clear, legal difference: Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Because nearly every case of mesothelioma traces back to asbestos exposure, victims can hold offenders accountable. Companies knew about the risks of asbestos exposure for decades before they stopped using the mineral. This generally makes them liable for their negligence. In short, their victims have a right to demand compensation.
With IPF and the other diseases, the other factors can make it harder for victims to prove that a company’s negligence led to their disease. Depending on the evidence, they might still have a case. For now, scientists do not fully understand the role asbestos plays in IPF. But over time, this may change.