Why is Asbestos so Dangerous?
Asbestos still kills roughly 5000 people a year, more than the number of people killed on the road. Approximately 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure to asbestos containing materials. But, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It may still be present in any building built before the year 2000.
When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged they release fibres into the air. These fibres are very small and are easily inhaled. Asbestos accumulates in the body with every exposure and there is no known way to reverse the damage it causes.
The asbestos fibers will not cause immediate harm, they will cause issues that take a long time to develop. As they take so long to develop, by the time the illnesses and diseases are diagnosed it is often too late to do anything.
What Health Problems Does Asbestos Cause?
- Mesothelioma: mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, these are called the pleura. It also affects the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). Mesothelioma is almost exclusively always related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed it is almost always fatal.
- Asbestos-related lung cancer: Asbestos-related lung cancer looks the same as lung cancer caused by smoking.
- Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos, over the course of many years. This condition can cause proressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases it can be fatal.
- Pleural Thickening: Pleural thickening is a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung, pleura, thickens and swells. If it gets worse the lung itself can be squeezed and this can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.
People who smoke, and are also exposed to asbestos fibers, are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Who is at Risk?
Workers who are involved in refurbishment, maintenance and other similar trades could be at risk of asbestos exposure during their work. This includes trades such as:
- Heating & ventilation engineers
- Demolition workers
- Carpenters & joiners
- Roofing contractors
- Painters & decorators
- Construction workers
- Shop fitters
- Cable layers
This list does not include all occupations at risk from potential exposure to asbestos.