Asbestos kills approximately 5,000 workers every year making it one of the biggest causes of worker death in the UK.
Even though it is no longer used in the building industry, it can still be found in older buildings and properties when it was used for fireproofing and insulation so it is still a major concern for workers.
The danger stems from the asbestos fibres that are released into the air when the substance is disturbed. If the fibres are inhaled and taken into the body, they can get lodged deep in the lungs and build up, causing irritation and scarring (fibrosis) that is irreversible.
This widespread scarring can lead to a lung condition known as asbestosis (taking its name directly from the dangerous substance) which is caused by the shrinking and hardening of the lungs, making it extremely difficult and painful to breath.
Some symptoms of this illness include shortness of breath, persistent coughing, chest pains and fatigue which can all eventually result in death.
Asbestosis typically takes over 20 years of exposure to asbestos to form, yet there are still over 1,000 cases of the condition reported every year.
Another health conditions caused by the continued exposure to asbestos fibres is a cancer called mesothelioma.
This is a result of the fibres, once again, building up in the lungs and getting embedded in the lining which causes inflammation that eventually leads to the formation of tumours.
Though it is still perceived as a rare form of cancer, it is unfortunately becoming more and more common each year and, like asbestosis, typically results in death.
It’s these consequences of disturbing asbestos without protection in place which make it an extremely dangerous and fatal substance.
Although it’s believed to take years of constant exposure to high levels of asbestos before it can cause any of these health problems, it isn’t worth the risk and correct PPE and training should be enforced before work around asbestos is even carried out.