Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) were finally banned in 1999. Historically, workers in the building, construction, shipbuilding, railway, and car industries were at particularly high risk of developing Asbestos diseases such as Asbestosis, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma. Any exposure to Asbestos increases a person’s chance of contracting an Asbestos-related disease. Such diseases can take many years to develop and the symptoms are as follows:
• Scarring of the lung tissue
• Rapid reduction of lung function and extreme shortness of breath
• Not always fatal but is extremely debilitating
• On the increase in the UK, set to peak around 2020
• Takes between 5 to 12 years to develop
• Associated with heavy, long-term exposure
• Similar to the lung cancer caused by heavy smoking
• Fibres cause tissue mutations which create cancerous cells
• Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing up blood
• Nearly always fatal, takes between 5 and 20 years to develop
• Cancerous cells form on the lining of the lung
• Causes large tumours to grow very rapidly squeezing internal organs and even break ribs
• Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing up blood & chest pain
• Always fatal – life expectancy of 6 months to 2 years from diagnosis
• Takes 25-50 years to develop
It is well recorded that even family members of workers exposed to Asbestos face an increased risk of developing mesothelioma and other Asbestos related diseases due to the inhalation of Asbestos dust carried into the home on the workers’ shoes, clothing, skin, or hair.
Today, Asbestos is still present in homes, schools, public buildings and has the potential to be present within any building constructed prior to the year 2000. Problems can occur when ACMs fall into disrepair or become damaged. For example, Asbestos insulation around pipes may deteriorate, allowing deadly dust to enter the air. Asbestos in ceiling tiles and numerous other building materials may become damaged when disturbed or repaired.
Currently, most people at risk of exposure to Asbestos fibres are those who are involved in maintaining, refurbishing, altering or even demolishing buildings constructed prior to the year 2000. Trades at risk include:
• General Maintenance or Demolition Staff
• Electricians/Plumbers/Gas Fitters
• Painters & Decorators
All construction-related trades that work in buildings constructed prior to 2000 should be given Asbestos Awareness training on a regular basis and allowed access to all Asbestos-related survey information prior to commencing work.