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Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Posted on by Asbestos Waste Solutions Limited

We have spoken many times about how important the safe removal and disposal of asbestos is throughout the country, and we feel that you can never be too careful when stressing the dangers of asbestos and just why it should be handled with care.

Asbestos has a reputation for being a dangerous material, but due to the fact that it is no longer actively used in construction, many people are unaware or not fully informed about why asbestos is such a threat. That’s why, this month, we’re focusing on what makes asbestos so dangerous, and why asbestos exposure can have such damaging effects.

Asbestos fibres

The thin asbestos fibres can settle in the lungs, where they can cause severe, permanent damage. The severity of the damage is typically influenced by the amount of asbestos fibres inhaled, as well as the duration of exposure. Single exposure of asbestos is less likely to cause lasting damage, but any asbestos exposure should be discussed with a doctor and regularly monitored for future development of symptoms of the asbestos-related diseases we are about to take a look at.

Asbestos-related diseases

Mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis are the three main asbestos-related diseases caused by asbestos exposure. In the cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer, fatality rates are high.

Mesothelioma is particularly severe, with symptoms often not occurring until years after initial exposure (the average latency period for mesothelioma is roughly 35-40 years after exposure). This disease targets the lining of the lungs and the lower digestive tract, and is almost always fatal by the time symptoms have been detected.

Asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs, is less severe than mesothelioma, but still has a long latency period. Fatalities can still occur in extreme cases, while others will be left with debilitating symptoms such as constant shortness of breath.

Widespread asbestos use

Asbestos is dangerous by nature, but the sheer volume of asbestos used around the country during the 20th century makes it even more so. Asbestos had unique properties which made it seem like a useful, versatile building material. It was popularly used for insulation purposes, and is present in thousands of buildings across the UK. Because it was so commonly used, and because the dangers of asbestos weren’t widely recognised until later, it’s difficult to know just how extensive its presence is today.

Obviously, this is one of the scarier aspects of asbestos, and is one of the main reasons asbestos surveys should be carried out during any demolition or renovation project of an older building.

Asbestos is still widely prevalent, and kills around 5000 workers each year. Asbestos use wasn’t well recorded in the past, so knowing exactly where asbestos was used – and how much – is difficult. However, it is safe to say that many buildings, including schools, homes, pubs and offices built before the mid 1980s are likely to contain asbestos to some degree.

Lack of awareness

Another contributing factor to the threat posed by asbestos is the general lack of awareness. If you know what to look for, you can find out much about asbestos and its history, but awareness of asbestos isn’t particularly widespread. This leads to people not treating asbestos with the level of care required, with some people opting to attempt asbestos removal themselves, without proper training or equipment. This is where asbestos is at its most dangerous, and a greater focus on teaching people from an early age about the dangers of asbestos will help stem the tide of asbestos-related deaths in the future.

Seeking treatment

If you or someone you know has ever been exposed to asbestos, or suspect that they have, it’s always best to be safe and seek professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Pay attention to possible symptoms – shortness of breath, chest pains, coughs etc – and mention past asbestos exposure when speaking to your doctor. Spotting symptoms early if you can is the most effective way of treating any asbestos-related illness.


Asbestos Waste Solutions are committed to providing safe, efficient and reliable asbestos disposal for domestic and commercial customers throughout the UK. Our fully qualified team work with complete professional care at all times, and are on hand to provide any advice you need to make sure that the asbestos in your property is handled and disposed of correctly. For more information about all of our services, dont hesitate to get in touch with us today.

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