Asbestos refers to rock composed of fibres of silicon, oxygen and other elements that was widely used throughout the construction industry until it was banned in 1999. It is responsible for the deaths of 5000 workers every year, and claims the lives of around 1000 tradesmen a year who have been exposed to asbestos in the past. Whilst these numbers will eventually diminish as old buildings are gradually replaced, the immediate risks of asbestos inhalation are severe.
The recurrent inhalation of asbestos can lead to a condition called Asbestosis, which occurs when fibres damage the lungs and cause bleeding. This bleeding leads to substantial scarring on the lungs, the progressive deterioration of lung function, and in some cases, death. Asbestos exposure also significantly increases risk of lung cancer, Mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs and lower digestive tract) and Pleural thickening (swelling of the lining of the lungs).
Before being banned, asbestos was a versatile building material, and can be found in many places throughout both residential and commercial premises. Its danger comes when it becomes damaged, leading to fibres being released into the air that you breathe. This means that older properties built before 1999 could eventually become death traps as general deterioration and wear across time occurs.
When working with asbestos, it is imperative that workers avoid breathing in asbestos, or coming into any physical contact with it. Respiratory protective equipment should be used with a filtering mechanism to ensure a safe air supply. However, these devices are often not designed for continuous use, or for men with beards. In future posts, we will further explore the laws, facts and risks relating to asbestos.