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Who is most at risk for asbestos exposure?

Posted on by Asbestos Waste Solutions Limited


The importance of safe asbestos disposal is paramount, and nothing illustrates this more than extensive historical evidence of asbestos risk to certain groups of people.

In the UK, the use of asbestos began in the 1700s, and increased greatly in commercial use throughout the next 200 years, with the first recorded death of an asbestos worker in 1906. It wasn’t until 1999 that a final ban came into place.

Exposure to asbestos is the main cause of malignant mesothelioma – a cancer that can affect the tissue lining of the lung and abdomen. It also increases the risk of certain non cancerous diseases such as asbestosis and pleural disease, causing scarring, inflammation and hardening of the lungs. These diseases begin to manifest between 10 to more than 40 years after exposure, so the knock-on effect is still very much present today.

Some of the most high-risk occupations include:

Construction workers


Asbestos occurs naturally in the environment in the form of fibres, which are fire, heat and chemical resistant. These properties mean asbestos was used extensively in building materials until it was banned in the UK, as well as 28 other countries across Europe, with many more introducing strict controls.

Construction workers were exposed to asbestos products on a daily basis, in materials such as insulation and fireproofing as well as paper and even textiles. They are also at risk when working on old buildings today which may still contain products made from asbestos.



Until they are damaged or otherwise disturbed, asbestos products are not harmful. Fires can cause significant damage to property in which asbestos had been used, meaning firefighters are at risk from inhaling the dangerous airborne fibres. Asbestos was once also used to make firefighter uniforms, due to its heat and flame resistant properties.

Many firefighters suffered from exposure to asbestos after the 9/11 attacks at the Word Trade Centre. Despite its known cancerous properties, asbestos products are still not banned in the USA, Canada, China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as used extensively in many other developing countries.

Industrial workers


Blacksmiths, mechanics, brick and stone masons, carpenters, electricians, power plant workers, roofers, plumbers and other industrial occupations also have a high risk of asbestos exposure. The families of these workers too were at risk, as asbestos fibres would be brought home in the clothes and hair of the workers themselves.

Whilst asbestos is not permitted in the UK today, it is still present in many materials used before current legislation came into place, precautions still need to be taken.

Other high-risk factors for occupations today include:

  • If the building you are working on was built before 1999.
  • No appropriate asbestos safety training or protective gear has been supplied.
  • If the site you’re working on has not been inspected or quantified for materials containing asbestos.
  • Health and safety regulations are not properly followed, or are deemed unnecessary by those in charge.

You can’t see or smell asbestos fibres in the air, so if you think you might be at risk don’t hesitate to contact professionals.

Founded in 2009, and with over 20 years of experience prior to that, Asbestos Waste Solutions are trained to the highest modern standards and are fully accredited. We provide a comprehensive service including the collection and disposal of all our customers’ asbestos waste, ensuring the utmost safety of our customers, staff and the environment. Get in touch with our friendly team of experts today for our free advice service or to find out more information.

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