Health Effects of Asbestos
There are four main diseases associated with asbestos exposure. These are lung cancer, asbestosis (a scarring of the lung tissue caused by asbestos) and mesothelioma (cancer of the lung lining) and diffuse pleural thickening / pleural plaques (a non-malignant disease affecting the lung lining).It is known that Asbestos can cause laryngeal cancer and may be implicated in causing stomach and colon cancers.
Asbestosis is repeated scaring of the lung tissue, also known as Fibrosis caused by heavy Asbestos exposure.Diagnosis is made on the basis of clinical features, X-ray appearances and a history of heavy asbestos exposure. It is generally recognised that heavy asbestos exposures are required in order to produce clinically significant asbestosis within the lifetime of an individual. Current trends therefore still largely reflect the results of heavy exposures in the past.
LUNG CANCER - Malignant Tumour of the Lungs
If you are a smoker and working on Asbestos Containing Materials then your risk increases 50 times more than a non-smoker of developing lung cancer.
DIFFUSE PLEURAL THICKENING
Results from thickening and scarring of the lining of the lungsThese diseases may take between 10 and 60 years to develop to the point where they can be diagnosed
Who is at Risk & Likely to be Exposed to Asbestos Fibres?
The tradesmen/operatives most at risk are those who carry out building maintenance and refurbishment work.If you work in the following occupations, then you are most at risk:
Heating and ventilation engineers
Painters and decorators
Solar panel installers
Fire & burglar alarm installers
General maintenance staff
Loft conversion contractors
This is just a small list of occupations who come into contact with Asbestos. Asbestos needs to be identified in a specialist laboratory (under the microscope).
When am I at risk from Asbestos?
You are mostly at risk when:
Working on buildings built before the year 2000
You are working in unfamiliar premises
If no Asbestos Register or Asbestos Management Plan is in place
If no Asbestos Surveys have been undertaken
Asbestos-containing materials were not identified before the job was started
You are at risk if Asbestos-containing materials were identified but this information was not passed on by the people in charge to the people doing the work, that is (the client or main contractor)
You don't know how to recognise and work safely with asbestos (you have not undertaken Asbestos Awareness Training)
Ignoring safety procedures, proper precautions, decontamination procedures and not wearing the correct PPE
Remember, if Asbestos is in good condition, not damaged or disturbed it will not pose a risk.When asbestos containing materials are damaged or deteriorate with age they can release fibres into the air. The shape and size of the fibres enables them to penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can stay for a long time causing possible damage to lung tissue. Blue and brown asbestos is thought to be the most dangerous forms due to their size and shape.Asbestos has been widely used and as a result there is a low level of asbestos in the air everywhere. While asbestos is potentially a very hazardous material, the risk to the public from asbestos in the home is low; however levels of fibres may be higher in buildings containing asbestos materials.The greater risk to health arises when asbestos is damaged or if the material is drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded. If you suspect that a material might contain asbestos do not carry out work on it but seek expert advice as DIY work can cause high, short-term exposures to asbestos fibres.