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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Asbestosis & COPD



My husband (age 66) was diagnosed with asbestosis (from working in the boiler room in the Navy) and has been on oxygen for about 10 years. He has recently been diagnosed with emphysema also. Did the asbestos fibers in his lungs cause the emphysema? (He did smoke when younger, but hasn’t smoked since 1989).


Thank you for visiting NetWellness and for your question.  There is not a clear and complete answer to this question.  Smoking is considered the primary cause of emphysema. In some people, damage to the lungs from smoking can continue even after they quit smoking. So, if a person smoked it was certainly a contributor to the development of lung disease.  

The combination of smoking and asbestos exposure can greatly increase the risk for lung disease. In general, asbestos fibers typically cause scarring of the lungs. Silica on the other hand may cause emphysema and scarring, but that exposure is usually distinct from asbestos, except in coal workers. With asbestosis, if scarring in the lungs is progressive in a patient, it can lead to emphysema changes on a CT scan. 

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Response by:

Michael E Ezzie, MD Michael E Ezzie, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University