Did you know that asbestos is responsible for the deaths of over 5000 people every year?
This number is truly staggering and can be hard to fathom, considering the material was legally banned from being used in building in 1999. But the problem is asbestos is still present in an estimated 1.5 million public buildings in the UK.
So, how dangerous is asbestos, and what does this mean for the public?
The Dangers of Asbestos in Public Spaces
As we have touched upon, asbestos is considered the cause of death of over 5000 people every year in the UK alone. Shockingly, this is more people than are killed on the road every year.
The HSE estimates that around 20 tradespeople will die each week simply due to past exposure to asbestos.
This is due to the risk posed by any building that was either built or refurbished before the year 2000, as they will have used asbestos in the foundations. This includes a wide range of different public sector buildings, among other private properties.
But why is it dangerous exactly? wWell, asbestos can cause several serious diseases if inhaled and is almost considered to be a quiet killer as you will not immediately notice the effects. Symptoms can take a long time to develop, and unfortunately, once diagnosed it is too late to do anything to stop it.
Asbestos can cause the following diseases:
Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
Asbestos-related lung cancer looks the same as regular lung cancer, which is typically brought on by smoking and other causes. However, in this case, lung cancer is caused by the inhalation of asbestos.
Those affected by asbestos-related lung cancer are usually not diagnosed until it is too late for the patient to be eligible for surgery and other effective lung cancer treatments.
It should be noted that those who smoke and have been exposed to asbestos are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Exposure to asbestos has also been found to cause mesothelioma; another cancer considered quite rare. In fact, most cases of mesothelioma are found to be caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma affects the membrane that lines the lungs, chest and abdomen.
Unfortunately, by the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.
After heavy asbestos exposure, some might suffer from pleural thickening, which is when the lining of the lungs thickens and swell. This can become incredibly uncomfortable and lead to the lung itself being squeezed, resulting in shortness of breath and chest pain.
Your lungs may become heavily scarred when exposed to asbestos heavily over many years. This is a condition known as asbestosis. It can lead to progressive shortness of breath and, in more severe cases, can be fatal.
Past Uses of Asbestos in Public Buildings
Asbestos was a popular building material because it offered great insulative properties, as well as the ability to protect against fire and corrosion. In fact, before it was a widely used building material, it was used in the army for many other applications across buildings and vehicles.
It was around 1930 that the material began being used in buildings and was most commonly used for insulation of boilers, pipes and floor tiles. However, the extent of its use actually goes far greater, as it was also used in textured decorating coating, roofing felt and toilet cisterns and seats.
What Public Buildings have Asbestos?
As asbestos was a commonly used material in commercial and industrial buildings, many public sector buildings across the country still contain asbestos. These include, but are not limited to;
- Leisure Centres
- Government Buildings
If you’re concerned about working in a public sector building where asbestos is present, your team should have the proper asbestos awareness training to ensure you can work around the material safely.
You should also do further research into learning how dangerous asbestos is to ensure your team does not take the threat lightly.