Can short term exposure to asbestos be dangerous?

Exposure to asbestos for a day, week or month is never recommended. But whether short-term exposure will significantly increase a person’s cancer risk depends on a variety of factors.

The first is how short the exposure was. It’s unlikely (though not impossible) that a person could inhale or ingest enough asbestos in one day to cause an asbestos-related disease. But being exposed every day for a month while working a short-term job could pose higher risk.

The other key factor is how severe the level of exposure was during that time. Carefully removing old asbestos from a home without cutting into it would pose relatively little risk, while cutting, smashing or sawing through it would release many times more of the fibers. Jobs that involve handling asbestos have varied throughout history in how severe the exposure level was (current OSHA regulations limit exposure, but not enough to ensure a person cancer risk won’t rise after long-term exposure).

Can short term exposure to asbestos be dangerous?

Asbestos exposure is cumulative. The fibers you unwittingly breathe in or swallow build up in the body, whether that exposure happened over a long or short amount of time. And unlike with tobacco smoking and other carcinogens, going a long time without any exposure won’t reverse the bad effects. People who have undergone short-term asbestos exposure should talk to a knowledgeable doctor about their history and recommended next steps.

Can short term exposure to asbestos be dangerous?

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