Causes of Pleural Plaques

The formation of pleural plaques are caused due to a person having been exposed to asbestos at some point in the past or over a continued period. The amount of exposure to asbestos for a person to have suffered is significantly lower for someone to develop a pleural plaque than types of asbestos related lung diseases such as asbestosis and as such the existence of a pleural plaque is the most common manifestation of asbestosis exposure in a person.

Generally a person will only have exposure to asbestosis as part of an occupation and in this day and age the use and exposure of employees to asbestosis is very highly regulated in the UK. However, in preceding decades the rules surrounding asbestos exposure were not as rigorous and consequently there would often be frequent exposure in certain occupations. Unfortunately, this has caused asbestos related health problems in following years for many people.

Occupations and industries where there has been known to be exposure to asbestos among workers include –

  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Chemical technicians
  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics
  • Insulation workers
  • Non-metallic mineral stone production workers
  • Pipefitters
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Railway workers
  • Rubber and plastic production
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Shipbuilding and repair workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Steamfitters
  • Trucking services
  • Yarn, thread and fabric mill workers

Pleural plaques tend to develop over the course of many years, up to 30 or 40 years and the use of asbestos was probably at its peak in the UK in the 1970’s so workers in these industries around that time may have had some exposure to asbestos that has only begun manifest itself recently in the form of pleural plaques.

Furthermore, the type of asbestos can be a factor because some types are more dangerous than others. The most dangerous type of asbestos is the blue type, which is followed by brown asbestos then white asbestos which is classified as the least dangerous. Also, the amount of asbestos exposure, the time period of continued asbestos exposure, whether a person was a smoker and any pre-existing lung conditions can play a part as to whether pleural plaques develop.