About Asbestos

WHERE IS ASBESTOS PRESENT?
Asbestos has been in use as an insulation material and fire retardant since the late 1800’s It was widely used in many industries. It is present in everyday construction materials such as concrete, roofing, ceiling and floor tiles and heating system and pipe insulation.

IS ASBESTOS STILL IN USE?
The harmful effects of asbestos were recognised legally in 1931 but the use of asbestos was not restricted in the UK until the 1980s. Many employers’ health and safety measures did not protect their workers sufficiently from the effects of exposure.

HOW DOES ASBESTOS GET INTO YOUR SYSTEM?
The diseases caused by Asbestos result from airborne fibres being breathed in and then accumulating in the lungs usually over a prolonged period of between 10 and 50 years or even longer. Asbestos can cause several different conditions and these can have a range of effects from very draining breathlessness to a fatal disease.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF ASBESTOS?
There are an increasing number of people suffering from diseases caused by asbestos and currently up to 3000 deaths a year from exposure to asbestos and related illnesses. This figure is forecast by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to increase until between 2015 & 2020.

WHICH JOBS ARE MOST AT RISK OF ASBESTOS EXPOSURE?
According to the HSE, the ten occupations found to have the highest risk of Mesothelioma, the most serious Asbestos related cancer, based on deaths between 1980 and 2000 were:

Metal Plate Workers
Vehicle Body Builders
Plumbers and Gas Fitters
Carpenters
Electricians
Sheet Metal Workers
Electrical Plant Operators
Production Fitters
Construction Workers
Electrical Engineers.

These occupations were associated largely with the following occupations using Asbestos.
Railway engine and carriage building
Construction – Especially installing insulation
Shipbuilding
Oil refineries
Textiles
Car brake pad manufacture
Power generation

WHAT CONDITIONS ARE CAUSED BY ASBESTOS?
Pleural Plaques A condition where areas of the pleura thicken as a result of scarring of the tissue (The lungs are wrapped in a thin membrane called the Pleura. Microscopic asbestos fibres embed themselves in the lungs and may lead to lung and pleura damage and disease.). Often without symptoms pleural plaques can nevertheless cause impairment of the lung and affect breathing. Pleural plaques are visible on x-ray and do not necessarily lead to other Asbestos related conditions.

Pleural Effusion A condition where fluid collects between the lung and the chest wall. This may cause breathlessness and may indicate the potential for pleural thickening to develop.

Diffuse Pleural Thickening
A thickening of the pleura often seen on both sides of the lung that can progress to severe breathlessness.

Asbestosis
Slowly progressive scarring or fibrosis of the lung tissue resulting in increasing disability.

Asbestos Induced Lung Cancer
This condition may be preceded by Asbestosis and is a malignant tumour on the lung. Asbestos workers who have smoked multiply their risk of contracting this form of cancer.

Mesothelioma
A rare type of fatal cancer caused by Asbestos that appears on the pleura.