Cigarette Smoking and Asbestos Exposure Increase Your Risk of Lung Cancer

Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer. Exposure to asbestos can also cause lung cancer. However, if you are a smoker who also breathes air polluted by asbestos fibers, your risk of getting lung cancer can be 100 times greater. 

There are more than 600 ingredients in cigarettes. When burned, they create more than 7,000 different chemicals. At least 70 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer in humans; others are known to be toxic or poisonous to humans. The chemicals in tobacco smoke are called “mutagens.” Mutagens can cause lung cells to mutate and grow abnormally, often becoming cancerous.

Deadly Chemicals in Tobacco Smoke

  • Acetone - used in paint stripper and nail polish remover
  • Acetic acid - one ingredient in hair dye
  • Ammonia - a cleaning agent
  • Arsenic - rat poison
  • Asbestos - used in building materials
  • Benzene – is in gasoline fumes and rubber cement 
  • Butane - lighter fluid
  • Cadmium - active component in battery acid
  • Carbon monoxide - released in car exhaust fumes
  • Copper - used in electric wiring
  • DDT - a banned insecticide
  • Formaldehyde - embalming fluid
  • Hexamine - found in barbecue lighter fluid
  • Hydrogen cyanide - the poison used in gas chambers
  • Lead - used in batteries
  • Methanol - a main component in rocket fuel
  • Methane - swamp gas
  • Naphthalene - an ingredient in mothballs
  • Nicotine - used as an insecticide
  • Polonium - occurs in radioactive fallout
  • Radon - a radioactive gas occurring naturally in some soils
  • Tar – used to pave roads
  • Toluene - an industrial solvent; used to manufacture paint

lung-cancer-asbestos-smokingWidespread Asbestos

Asbestos was once used widely in building and shipping materials– insulation, roofing, ceiling and floor tiles, paper, cement products. It was also used in other consumer products such as coatings, textiles, and electrical products and in transportation – cars, ships, trains, and planes. 

Asbestos fibers are so tiny they cannot be seen with the naked eye and have no taste or smell. If you breathe a lot of asbestos dust or fibers or breathe it for an extended period of time, it can cause scarring of lung tissues, called asbestosis. Asbestos also contributes to inflammation (swelling) and fibrosis, which increases the risk of cancer. Fibrosis is a thickening and scarring of connective tissue.

Symptoms of asbestosis include coughing, trouble breathing, and chest pain. The pain comes from scarring and permanent lung damage, according to the National Cancer Institute. Breathing asbestos dust can lead to other lung problems, including mesothelioma, which is cancer in the lining of the lungs, chest, or stomach area. 

Explosive Combination

Asbestosis and smoking are deadly combinations. About one in seven people with asbestosis develop lung cancer. The lung cancer risk for a smoker, who has also been exposed to asbestos, is higher than the risk of smoking and inhaling asbestos combined. 

People exposed to asbestos and smoke tobacco are 50 to 100 times more likely to develop lung cancer. 

Some of the asbestos fibers you breathe in can be exhaled, but others stay in your lungs for the rest of your life. If you’re a tobacco smoker, here’s why asbestosis so dramatically increases your risk of lung cancer. Tobacco smokers have: 

  • Weakened lungs that cannot exhale asbestos fibers
  • Irritated air passages that produce more mucus
  • Lungs with too much mucus that block the passage of air 
  • Extra mucus decreases the lungs’ ability to exhale asbestos fibers and dust

The rate of lung cancer increases with the amount you smoke and the number of years you smoke. It’s more dangerous if you start smoking at a younger age. Cancer risk also increases with the type and size of asbestos fibers you inhale.

Lung Cancer Prevention


The most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking. Most (80-90%) of people who die from lung cancer have a history of smoking. Smoking cigars, pipes or e-cigarettes, and vaping are all tied to cancer. Smokers are up to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer than non-smokers. 

Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. It is the leading cause of preventable death. Each pack of cigarettes you smoke shortens your life by 3.5 hours. For a two-pack-a-day smoker, that adds up to more than 100 days per year of reduced life expectancy; more than 28% less. At least 20% of all deaths in the United States are tobacco-related.

Reduce the possibility of asbestos exposure by not disturbing areas that may contain asbestos products. When asbestos is in its stable, undisturbed state, it is not hazardous to health. Unfortunately, working with the material in almost any way can disrupt the asbestos, causing fibers to become airborne. If these products must be removed, hire experienced professionals that follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for handling asbestos.

Avoid secondhand smoke from another person’s cigarette, cigar, or pipe. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that secondhand smoke causes more than 7,000 cancer deaths each year.

Avoid other known lung cancer risks from your environment. About 10% to 20% of lung cancer cases are caused by exposure to the chemicals listed above.

If you, or someone you know, has lung cancer and you would like to know if they qualify for additional compensation, please call 1-800-998-9729 for a FREE consultation.