Be totally honest. Do you think about asbestos? Do you even know what it is? Could you identify asbestos containing materials if they were staring you in the face? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then this post was written specifically for you.
Asbestos kills. It’s a serious fact that sadly there is no getting away from. If you inhale asbestos fibres, they can embed themselves into your lungs and can cause various asbestos related diseases that can be fatal.
So why should you care? Well, are you aware that asbestos is statistically the biggest occupational killer in the UK? Asbestos currently kills around 5000 workers every year in UK. To put that into perspective, it is more than the number of people killed each year in road collisions.
Let’s start with some of the more commonly asked questions and briefly introduce you to asbestos.
What exactly is asbestos?
Asbestos is a set of six silicate minerals which occur naturally. White asbestos makes up approximately 95% of the asbestos found in buildings. It occurs in all parts of the world and is fibrous, heat resistant and non-flammable. The 3 types of asbestos that were used in the UK before being banned were chrysotile (white asbestos) crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos). The other three asbestos types that make up the set of six are called anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite.
How dangerous is it?
Asbestos is extremely dangerous for human health, as it can cause lung diseases such as asbestosis, emphysema and mesothelioma if the fibres get loose in the air. It can also harm animals such as livestock or pets.
Where can it be found?
Before its full UK ban was enforced in 1999, asbestos was used universally in many of the materials used to construct buildings. It was cheap, widely available, strong, insulating, fire and heat resistant, and sound absorbing. All these qualities made it massively popular until its ban, and is the reason so many UK properties built and refurbished before 1999 had asbestos used in them.
It is therefore a very real possibility that you already have or may enter into a building at some point where asbestos is present. After all, experts claim that of the six millions tonnes of asbestos still in the UK, the majority is in buildings – an estimated 1.5 million buildings.
Virtually any building you can think of entering, that was built or refurbished prior to the year 2000, could have had, or still have, asbestos present. That includes the likes of hospitals, care homes, schools, colleges, universities, museums, shops, work places and even homes.
How do fibres get inhaled?
When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases and damage. These diseases will not affect you immediately, and often take a long time to develop, even 30 years in some cases, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to act. This is why it is important to protect yourself now.
What type of diseases?
Asbestos can cause many fatal and serious diseases. The likes of mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural thickening to name a few. It is also important to remember that people who smoke and are exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Hopefully, you see and appreciate, that if you haven’t been thinking about asbestos much before today, now is the perfect time for you to begin. It is no exaggeration that what you will learn could save lives!
If you believe your commercial or private property may have asbestos, you have a responsibility to manage it. ESSS, a UKAS and ISO accredited asbestos consultancy, is equipped to determine the extent of your asbestos situation and develop a plan for the management and/or removal of it. Contact us today at 01268 755 464 or by visiting http://www.esss.co.uk/.