About Asbestos - Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material having excellent insulation properties; it has been used in large quantities for lagging boilers, steam pipes and similar plant, and as fire protection. The strong fibres have been used as strengtheners in the manufacture of a variety of items, including for example, cement roof sheets. The risk from asbestos comes when the individual fibres are inhaled, attaching to the lungs, they can cause a number of respiratory diseases, many of which are terminal. The period from inhalation of asbestos to the onset of disease can be as long as forty years, but can be considerably shorter. Not everyone exposed will develop a disease; some people may be affected by a single exposure, although this is unusual. Asbestos is no longer legally available for use in the UK but there is still a large quantity remaining in commercial and residential properties. The eventual aim is to remove it from our environment but in the meantime we need to prevent accidental exposure and illness by properly identifying and managing it. Asbestos is likely to be present in any building constructed or refurbished before the year 2000. An estimated half a million buildings contain it.
Exposure to asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Around 4,500 people a year die from asbestos-related disease. These diseases include mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the membrane around the lung, and the same type of lung cancer associated with smoking.