Asbestos is a potentially fatal substance to come into contact with. It only takes a small disturbance to materials containing asbestos for fibres to be released into the air as dust and cause serious long-term health complications for any person who breathes it in. There are more deaths from asbestos-related illnesses, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, than any other type of work-related cause of death. Any building constructed prior to the ban on asbestos in construction in 1999 could have asbestos in it, so it is important to be aware of the potential dangers of asbestos and asbestos dust.
Around 5,000 people each year are killed by asbestos-related illnesses, but due to the symptoms often not presenting to sufferers for many decades after the event, the dangers of asbestos are still not keenly felt for many people. It is important to understand the dangers of asbestos dust however, as it only takes one set of asbestos dust to be released into the air to cause long-term illness and fatality.
On average the onset of any disease caused by the breathing in of asbestos dust and fibres is anywhere between 15 and 60 years. It is incredible to think how many people may still yet to present symptoms of asbestosis and other asbestos related illnesses at times before asbestos was made illegal within construction in the UK 20-years ago. At a time when asbestos was widely used many people were in contact with it, and we are still seeing many cases each year of fatal examples of exposure to asbestos many decades ago in some instances.
Asbestos itself is a mineral that naturally occurs and was used for around 150 years on a large-scale. It was often used for lagging materials, fireproofing and insulation due to its versatility, robustness, and vast quantities available. This is why it is so important to understand its dangers due to the fact it was so widely used for such a long period of time in this country. The majority of those people who become victims of asbestos today work in the building trade, are electricians, plumbers, shopfitters and joiners, demolition experts and the like. They may be exposed to asbestos and materials containing asbestos dust during everyday work, but these days it is illegal to carry out any work where asbestos is present before first hiring a licensed asbestos management and removal service to survey the scene, identify the potential hazards and ensure any asbestos is safely removed if required.
If you are the person responsible for a site where asbestos might be present it is important that you understand how fatal it can be for even one breath of asbestos dust to be taken in by any person. Halt work immediately if it is thought asbestos is on site, contact an asbestos survey team and ensure that all asbestos is managed and securely removed from the premises before any work commences.