Recent statistics show that almost every building built before 1980 is most likely to be made of asbestos related products. According to the TUC, all public buildings and schools built between 1960 and 1980 most probably have asbestos in walls, boilers, and even hot pipes. Properties built since the mid-1980’s are unlikely to contain asbestos in the fabric of the building and properties built since 1990 are extremely unlikely to contain asbestos anywhere in the building.
Asbestos has previously been used in UK buildings for fireproofing, insulation, reinforcement and condensation protection. The Advisory Committee on Asbestos has released a report which states that the UK is most affected by the use of white asbestos by the name of Chrysotile. The Chrysotile imported by the UK in 1976 was utilized 40% by cement building products, 22% by reinforced and filler cements and 12% by floors and tiles.
Asbestos based items and products are no longer approved by the UK government or any other government in the world since research has highlighted its harmful effects on human health. These products are known to emit asbestos fibres which are the cause of many diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and other diseases. These fibres are so small that they are invisible to the human eye, with some fibres being up to seven hundred times smaller than a human hair. When these asbestos fibres are released from the building material or product and become airborne into the air we breathe, they often stay suspended there for hours or even days.
We are all exposed to low levels of asbestos in the air we breathe. This is generally higher in cities and industrial areas. Employees in industries that mine, produce or use asbestos products and people living near these industries may be exposed to high levels of asbestos in the air.
Asbestos fibres may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos based material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. Asbestos exposure may also occur when asbestos based materials are disturbed in some way as to release particles and fibres into the air. This disturbance could include product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance.
Asbestos is not always an immediate hazard. In fact, if asbestos can be maintained in good condition, it is recommended that it be left alone and periodic surveillance performed to monitor it’s condition. It is only when asbestos containing materials are disturbed or the materials become damaged in such a manner that fibres are released, that it becomes a hazard.
When asbestos fibres are originally inhaled, they may become trapped in the lungs. Over time, the body tries to dissolve theses fibres. Unfortunately due to the nature of asbestos, the body does little to damage the fibre, but instead damages the surrounding tissue. Eventually, this damage may become so severe that the lungs cannot function.
Although the use of asbestos has been banned for many years now, asbestos related deaths still occur for up to 40 years after exposure. The symptoms of asbestos related diseases, unfortunately, do not become apparent until it is too late.