Asbestos Awareness: do not underestimate the impact of Asbestos
Posted: November 30, 2018
There are thousands of public and private buildings in the UK which have used asbestos in their creation due to it being cheap, durable and fire resistant. It was used massively in the construction industry over the previous decades.
Asbestos is a mineral used in buildings after the Second World War in the United Kingdom. There are three different types of asbestos:
• Chrysotile (white asbestos) which is found in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors
• Amosite (brown asbestos) which was used in insulating boards and thermal insulation products
• Crocidolite (blue asbestos) used to insulate steam engines, plastics and cement products
The first actual documented case of someone dying from an asbestos related disease was a young woman called Nellie Kershaw. She worked in an asbestos mill in 1907 where she would spin raw asbestos fibres into yarn. She died from asbestosis.
Despite this, building work with asbestos took place throughout the 1960’s – 1990’s. There were laws put in place to limit the amount of asbestos exposure such as the Asbestos Regulations 1969 Act and the Control of Asbestos at Work 1985 and 1992 Acts. In 1985, white asbestos and brown asbestos were banned in the UK. However, it was only with the passing of the Asbestos (Prohibitions) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 that asbestos was completely prevents from ever again being supplied in the UK. There have also been recent laws in the 2000’s to place legal duties on employers’ and company owners to manage the risks of buildings containing asbestos.
The regulations include:
• Carrying out risk assessments
• Keeping records of the locations
• Preparing and implementing a plan for material risk management
• Reviewing and monitoring the plan
• Presuming materials contain asbestos, unless there’s evidence it does not
• Providing information on location and condition of the material to relevant parties
Thousands of buildings in the UK still contain asbestos. However, asbestos is not dangerous when contained within the building and is not disturbed. See the photo below.
Stickers like these can be placed on walls or areas of buildings which contains asbestos. This is important if for example you were considering drilling through a wall which contains asbestos because you wanted to hang up a noticeboard. This alone could release hundreds of thousands of asbestos particles into the atmosphere. Can you imagine how dangerous demolishing a building could potentially be? There are specialist asbestos removal and asbestos demolition companies for these sorts of projects and jobs.
As of 2018, construction workers should be expected to go on courses to understand the dangers of asbestos, carry out risk assessments and to monitor the levels of asbestos in the air. These courses fall broadly into three categories.
• Asbestos Awareness for people in various trades
• Non – licensable work for those people whose work will require them to disturb asbestos-containing materials
• Licensable work with asbestos for licensed contractors and managers
Health concerns related to asbestos
People become exposed to asbestos particles by inhaling asbestos particles in the air as dust or by swallowing asbestos particles in contaminated foods and liquids.
particles of Asbestos
Here are some diseases which are associated with asbestos.
It is form of cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen so far only known to be caused by asbestos. It has a high association with amphibole asbestos (brown and blue), can take up to 45 years to develop after initial exposure. It leads to death usually occurs within 6-18 months after diagnosis and has no cure.
These are benign growths that rarely produce symptoms. They produce discrete patches of thickening of the lining of the chest wall and diaphragms in the pleural membranes that surround the lungs.
There is a close association between asbestosis and lung cancer (about 50% of people dying from or with asbestosis have a lung cancer at post mortem). Asbestos fibres enter the lung and alter the cells. It may take 20-25 years to develop.
Asbestosis is a scarring and thickening of the lung tissue as the result of exposure to asbestos dust. Scars continue to grow and inhibit oxygen to the lungs which in turn creates difficulty in breathing. Asbestosis causes the total lung volume to be reduced, shortness of breath, coughing, phlegm and lung infections, cyanosis (blue skin coloration) through oxygen starvation and eventually leads to death by heart failure. All types of asbestos can potentially lead to scarring and thickening. Asbestosis usually appears 10-20 years after high exposure. There is currently no treatment for it.
Asbestos is a serious topic and can cause devastation for people diagnosed with it or for their families. The sheer number of insurance claims by people affected by asbestos is enough to indicate it’s significance. It is estimated that 250,000 people will die of asbestos related illnesses between 1995 and 2029. The House of Lords has helped to determine liability and many people can make claims from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
I hope that this posting has shed some more light on the issues related to asbestos and that it has made everyone much more aware of asbestos.