Asbestos: The Risk It Poses To Your Health
Before it was banned in the UK in 1999, asbestos was widely used and most homes built prior to that date are likely to have some asbestos or other asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Provided the material is in good condition and is left undisturbed, asbestos poses virtually no risk to health, but when it is damaged or disturbed in any way fine fibres are released into the air which can cause serious, and sometimes fatal diseases. Anyone who is exposed to asbestos inhalation is at risk. The Health and Safety Executive says around 5000 workers still die every year through asbestos related diseases. Anyone carrying out renovations or DIY projects on homes built before 1999 that involves drilling or dismantling could be putting their health at risk, and should get a simple asbestos survey done first.
Where is asbestos commonly found?
In some ways, it’s easier to say where asbestos is not found such was its widespread use before it was banned. Asbestos was typically used when installing boilers, in the cement, tiles and insulation or lagging material. It was also used in popular decorative coatings such as artex; in ceiling and bath tiles, toilet cisterns, in partition walls and inside window panels. Exterior guttering and downpipes from the same period are sometimes made from or frequently contain asbestos, as do soffits. Cement roofs made from asbestos pre ’99 are also common. Asbestos was widely used for coatings on walls, beams and columns, in panels on fire doors – the list goes on.
Should I be worried?
Asbestos can cause a number of serious and fatal diseases if inhaled, although the effects may not be apparent immediately. In fact, because problems can take a long time to develop, the diagnosis often comes too late to reverse the condition. The most common asbestos related diseases are:
- Mesothelioma – this is a type of cancer that affects the pleura (lung lining), as well as the lining of the peritoneum (lower digestive tract), and is directly linked to exposure to asbestos fibres. This condition is usually fatal.
- Asbestos-related lung cancer – this is similar in effect to lung cancer that is caused by tobacco smoking, and has a similarly bleak prognosis.
- Asbestosis – is scarring of the lungs that is normally caused after prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres, sometime over a period of years. Typically, sufferers will experience shortness of breath that gets worse over time, often leading to death.
- Pleural thickening – this is when the lining of the pleura (lungs) swells and thickens after prolonged exposure to asbestos. Shortness of breath is the main symptom which can be fatal in some cases.
So, what can I do?
If you’re planning to carry out some home refurbishment, or are concerned that your property is of an age where asbestos is likely to be present and want an expert opinion, arranging a simple asbestos report is the way to go. At EPC, our accredited assessors can provide you with a full asbestos survey of your home or property. We’re not associated with any asbestos removal firms, and you are assured of an independent report that will provide you with exactly the kind of information you need.