Mesothelioma is the worst asbestos-related disease, but it is far from the only one. Asbestos is implicated as a contributing factor in a number of conditions, and is the direct cause of several, the most common being asbestosis.

Asbestosis is a respiratory disorder caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is generally associated with high levels of fiber inhalation – it is much more common among former asbestos miners, for example, than among people occupationally or environmentally exposed to modest levels of asbestos. Asbestosis is a very serious condition that can be fatal, particularly when left untreated. Asbestosis involves scarring of the pulmonary interstitium. The symptoms of asbestosis generally start out as being very mild, building up in severity over time. Symptoms include shortness of breath, particularly when exercising, a persistent dry cough, chronic fatigue, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, and a crackling noise in the lungs when the patient tries to breathe. Additionally, asbestosis can lead to other medical conditions such as pulmonary hypertension.

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells in and on the lungs. It is distinct from malignant mesothelioma; in mesothelioma the cancer forms on the mesothelium, the thin layer of cells that wrap the lungs and line the thoracic cavity. Asbestos is the second most common cause of lung cancer, with tobacco smoking accounting for a majority of cases. It is also known that smoking tobacco in conjunction with asbestos exposure is a particularly high risk factor for developing lung cancer.

Other parts of the body can develop asbestos-related cancer. Studies have found evidence that asbestos exposure can be a causal factor in gastrointestinal cancers, cancer of the larynx, throat cancer, rectal cancer, and colon cancer.

Asbestos warts are formed when unprotected skin is irritated or damaged by asbestos fibers. The fibers lodge in the skin and cause calluses to form. The exact mechanism of the formation of these warts is unknown; since they are non-cancerous and do not cause any serious health problems for sufferers, most researchers have focused on conditions like mesothelioma. Asbestos warts are a convenient indicator that a person has definitely been exposed to asbestos.

Pleural plaques are a common side effect of asbestos exposure. Unlike more serious conditions, pleural plaques often develop in patients with limited or brief exposure to asbestos. Pleural plaques are essentially a hard, calcified layer on the inner surface of the diaphragm and ribcage. They do not seem to cause major symptoms or lead to additional health issues.

Pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid in the lung cavity. It is often an early symptom of asbestos exposure. Pleural effusion can be quite serious, as the fluid pressure makes it difficult for the lungs to expand, causing severe breathing difficulties. However, pleural fluid buildup can be readily mitigated by medical intervention.

Diffuse pleural thickening is a thickening of the mesothelium around the lungs. It is not really a condition in its own right, and is a side effect and symptom of a variety of respiratory diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and pleurisy.