Asbestos was completely banned in the UK back in 1999, but it still exists in many buildings to date. Safe management and removal of this dangerous material is necessary to prevent it becoming airborne, which is when it’s most dangerous. Over the years, many myths about asbestos developed so today, we’re here to clear the air on the top 10 myths.
Myth #1: Asbestos is safe in small amounts
False. Asbestos should always be treated as potentially dangerous regardless of size. While it’s true that unbroken (contained) asbestos is less likely to have airborne fibres, you need to be wary of broken asbestos based materials. Whatever the variety of asbestos, when it’s broken into small pieces, the mineral can be breathed into lungs and cause irreparable damage.
Myth #2: Asbestos is only dangerous after long-term exposure
False. It’s wrongly believed that only people who were exposed to asbestos for a long period of time like factory workers can contract mesothelioma or asbestosis. Short term exposure can be dangerous too. It is less likely that a few minutes or even days of exposure will cause severe illness later on, but it is still possible. Many people confuse asbestos long latency period (period from first exposure to discovery of illness) with long term exposure. Asbestos related diseases can sometimes reveal themselves 30 years after initial exposure, regardless of if it was long or short term exposure. The impact of exposure also depends on a person’s physiological response to asbestos.
Myth #3: Not all types of asbestos are dangerous
False. All six types of asbestos are dangerous. Chrysotile (white asbestos) is known to be the least deadly form of asbestos compared to the others, but exposure is still considered to be extremely dangerous.
Myth #4: Asbestos only affects men
False. While there may be more men affected by asbestos-related illnesses, it was because men typically worked in industrial settings where asbestos exposure was more common during the 20th century. Both men and women are affected to the dangers of asbestos materials.
Myth #5: Asbestos is safe as long as you keep it wet
False. While the idea of keeping the affected area damp to reduce the asbestos fibres becoming airborne sounds foolproof, most types of asbestos are hydrophobic (meaning they repel water), and they still get into the air via water and water-based wetting materials.
Myth #6: Asbestos only affects those in construction industries
False. Asbestos affects everyone and asbestos-related diseases affect a wide scope of careers. However, the highest rate of illness is linked to former construction workers due to the exposure levels they would have faced in their industry. Shipbuilders, carpenters, plumbers and electricians make up a substantial portion of those that suffer from these fatal diseases.
Myth #7: Asbestos related diseases are contagious
False. None of the diseases that are asbestos related are contagious. Sometimes people who lived with construction workers or asbestos miners (people exposed to asbestos) got ill as well. This is because they would have likely come into close contact with the material as the asbestos fibres attach themselves to clothes. This is where this myth originated from.
Myth #8: There aren’t asbestos alternatives on the market
False. While there is no one product that can act in the full scope asbestos can, industries have found replacements for this deadly material that can hold up to individual tasks just as well. Polyurethane foam spray replaces asbestos insulation, silica is woven into fabric to withstand fire, and thermoset plastic is the automotive industry’s replacement for electrical insulation.
Myth #9: If you’re wearing a dust mask, asbestos is safe to remove
False. Firstly, a basic dust mask is not sufficient for protection against asbestos fibres. Secondly, asbestos fibres can become airborne, and while they can be inhaled, they also settle on clothing, in hair and on exposed skin, which you can then spread throughout your home and expose your family to the deadly material. It’s always strongly recommended to have an experienced asbestos removal specialist handle this dangerous material when removing it.
Myth #10: Asbestos is an old problem which doesn’t affect me
False. While asbestos was completely banned in the UK in 1999, experts state that 6 million tonnes of asbestos is still present in the UK today, and the majority is in buildings. Do not mistakenly think asbestos is just a thing of the past. For example, it’s estimated that over 75% of schools in England still contain asbestos, and between 2002 and 2010, 128 British school teachers died from mesothelioma.
Asbestos is no joke. It’s a harmful and deadly material that has life changing effects. Always have an experienced and qualified specialist manage and handle the removal of this dangerous material. Never try to do it yourself, else you risk exposing yourself and others to this potential killer.
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/.