Asbestos was used in thousands of products from general construction, to pottery, cigarette filters and candles. Most buildings built before 2000 probably contain asbestos.
Exposure to asbestos can result in a number of illnesses including:
- Lung cancer
- Diffuse pleural thickening
The number of people dying each year of illnesses resulting from exposure to asbestos currently stands at several thousand and is still rising; making asbestos the single largest cause of death due to a work related illness, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
Asbestos becomes a greater risk to health when the fibres become airborne, allowing them to be breathed in. This can be caused by damage, drilling or cutting. It takes many years, often decades, for the symptoms of exposure to become apparent. Once the asbestos fibres have entered the body and symptoms are eventually apparent, the effects are irreversible.
Preventing exposure to asbestos is key. If this is not possible, then exposure must be reduced to the lowest possible level.
Visit the HSE website for information.