Does Exposure to Asbestos While Pregnant Affect My Baby?

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Workers in the construction and ship repair industries are exposed heavily to asbestos, particularly during the removal of asbestos materials due to repairs, renovation, or demolition.

Additionally, employees producing asbestos products like insulation, textiles, friction products, and other building materials are likely to be exposed.

exposure to asbestos while pregnant

These workers can become risk factors as they can carry the asbestos fibers or dust back home. Other people living with these workers, such as children, pregnant women, or the elderly, can also get exposed to asbestos.

Parenting healthy babies start in the womb. If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, learning about mesothelioma can help you take steps to prevent or minimize your risk of exposure to this material. Visit the Mesothelioma Group website to learn more about mesothelioma, its stages, and treatment options.

Can asbestos exposure affect pregnant women and their babies? Can asbestos really cause cancer?

This article talks about asbestos, how it affects pregnant women and their unborn babies, and how this material causes an individual to develop cancer.

Possible Effects of Asbestos on Pregnancy

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), family members working in asbestos mills or mines often carry asbestos fibers on their clothing.

This situation exposes the other family members to this material. If there are pregnant women in the family, they can also get exposed.

Breathing the asbestos fibers can cause a person to have breathing difficulties, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer in the mesothelium, or the tissue covering your internal organs. It comes in the following forms:

  • Pleural mesothelioma: Occurs in the tissue surrounding the lungs. Symptoms include painful coughing, chest pains, and unexplained weight loss.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: Affects the abdomen tissue and causes abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, and unexplained weight loss.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma: Develops in the tissue surrounding the heart and causes chest pains and breathing difficulties.
  • Tunica vaginalis mesothelioma: Affects the testicles and causes swelling or testicle mass.

One study involving 2,968 women exposed to blue asbestos (crocidolite) showed that asbestos fibers were present in the lungs, pleural and peritoneal mesothelium, and ovaries. The researchers also detected asbestos in placental digests of live and stillborn infants.

The same study also suggested that asbestos exposure may have a connection to gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), particularly hydatidiform mole and choriocarcinoma.

GTD is a group of rare diseases that causes abnormal trophoblast cell growth inside the uterus after conception.

Hydatidiform moles are slow-growing tumors that appear like fluid sacs in the uterus. These tumors can eventually develop into cancer depending on the person’s risk factors, such as being pregnant before 20 or after 35 years of age.

Meanwhile, choriocarcinomas are malignant tumors developing from trophoblast cells and spreading to the uterus’ muscles and nearby blood vessels. The tumor can also spread to the following areas:

  • Brain
  • Lungs
  • Kidney
  • Intestines
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Pelvis
  • Vagina

Women who’ve had any of the following have a higher likelihood of developing choriocarcinomas:

  • Molar pregnancy, especially with a complete hydatidiform mole
  • Normal pregnancy
  • Tubal pregnancy, wherein the fertilized egg settles in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus
  • Miscarriage

In a molar pregnancy, the placental tissue is swollen and contains fluid-filled cysts. While a fetus can form, it’s unlikely to survive and usually miscarries early.

Despite these conditions, the ATSDR mentioned that developing fetuses are unlikely to get exposed to asbestos through the placenta or the mother’s breast milk. Furthermore, animal studies didn’t indicate that asbestos exposure could lead to congenital disabilities.

What Is Asbestos? How Does It Cause Cancer?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring corrosion- and heat-resistant minerals. Manufacturers use this material for products like floor tiles, building materials, pipe and steam line insulation, and vehicle parts like clutches and brakes.

Asbestos produces dust when it breaks up, like when miners dig for the material or when workers remove asbestos insulation. If you inhale or swallow the dust, the fibers will settle in and irritate your lungs or stomach.

Breathing in the fibers can lead to asbestosis, a scar-like tissue buildup in your lungs. This buildup can cause lung function loss, eventually leading to disability and death.

Asbestos also causes lung cancer and other diseases like mesothelioma, a fatal malignant tumor of the membrane lining the lung or stomach cavities.

Epidemiologic evidence shows that all asbestos fiber types, including chrysotile, the asbestos mineral most commonly used, causes mesothelioma in humans.

Although experts know asbestos can cause mesothelioma, they still don’t understand precisely how the disease develops. Mesothelioma can take 20 to 60 years to develop after the person gets exposed to this material.

Many individuals exposed to asbestos don’t develop mesothelioma, suggesting other factors contribute to whether someone gets this disease. For instance, a person can have a different condition that increases risk.

Consult your doctor or oncologist for a diagnosis to know whether you have mesothelioma or other asbestos-related condition.

If you’re pregnant or exposed to significant asbestos amounts, ask your doctor whether your children or unborn child might be exposed. Your doctor can also contact your state health department to investigate your condition.

References

  1. Asbestos

https://www.osha.gov/asbestos

  1. Mesothelioma: Symptoms & Causes

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375022

  1. Public Health Statement for Asbestos

https://wwwn.cdc.gov/TSP/PHS/PHS.aspx?phsid=28&toxid=4

  1. Asbestos exposure and gestational trophoblastic disease: a hypothesis

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19900938/

  1. Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version

https://www.cancer.gov/types/gestational-trophoblastic/patient/gtd-treatment-pdq

  1. Molar Pregnancy: Symptoms & Causes

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/molar-pregnancy/symptoms-causes/syc-20375175