Asbestos – Should I Worry?

It’s 2020, should you still worry about asbestos? In short, yes. Asbestos poses extreme dangers to those who are exposed to it and even though it is no longer used in practice, it is still around, and the exposure can be lethal.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is not a single type of mineral; it is a group of six minerals made up of microscopic fibres. Asbestos was previously used in homes and buildings for insulation, roofing, flooring, and putty to seal windows or fill holes. It has been fully banned in the UK since 1999 due to the dangers it can cause to the human body.

What are the risks?

Breathing asbestos dust can cause serious damage to the lungs and cause cancer. There is no known cure for asbestos related diseases.

4 of the dangers of asbestos are:

  • Non-malignant pleural disease
  • Asbestosis
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma

Who is at risk?

Although asbestos is no longer used by installation companies, those homes that were built before 2000 still pose a risk. According to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive), asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers per year with 20 tradesmen dying each week as a result of past exposure. [1]

  • Installers are at risk if they have been exposed to asbestos for a long time whilst at work.
  • Those who live with an installer who has been exposed to asbestos may also be at risk.
  • Those living in a property with asbestos may be at risk if the materials are damaged or disturbed.

Once asbestos fibres are in the body, it is extremely difficult for the body to expel them.

Identifying asbestos

It is not sufficient to identify asbestos with a visual inspection or by comparing products you think may contain asbestos with photos that you can find online. It is advisable to have an asbestos survey conducted on a property or building to correctly identify asbestos.

Precautions to take

It is when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed that the asbestos fibres become dangerous. This is because they can be released into the air and then breathed into someone’s lungs.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance states that if there are any asbestos materials on site, these should have been identified before any work. If any hidden materials or dust are uncovered, that you suspect may contain asbestos, you must stop work immediately and seek advice.

Asbestos is still prevalent in homes and buildings and so it is advisable to carry out refresher training every year. There is a legal duty for employers in the industry to provide information and training for any of their employees that could be exposed to asbestos when carrying out work.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/dangerous.htm

For further information and advice on asbestos, we recommend the HSE website.