Asbestos can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.
Asbestos. Why is it dangerous?
Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people
killed on the road. Around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past asbestos exposure.
However, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building
built or refurbished before the year 2000.
When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the
air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not
affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. Therefore it is important that you protect yourself now.
It is now illegal to use asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of any premises, but
many thousands of tonnes of it were used in the past and much of it is still in place. There
are three main types of asbestos that can still be found in premises, commonly called ‘blue
asbestos’ (crocidolite), ‘brown asbestos’ (amosite) and ‘white asbestos’ (chrysotile). All of
them are dangerous carcinogens, but blue and brown asbestos are more hazardous than
white. Despite their names, you cannot identify them just by their colour.
Asbestos can cause the following fatal and serious diseases:
Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining
surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to
asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.
Asbestos-related lung cancer
Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by
smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every
Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy
exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of
breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.
Pleural thickening is generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The
lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be
squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.
Note: It is also important to remember that people who smoke, and are also exposed to
asbestos fibres, are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Where might you find Asbestos?
• Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls, beams and columns
• Asbestos cement water tank
• Loose fill insulation
• Lagging on boilers and pipes
• Asbestos Insulating Board ceiling tiles
• Toilet seat and cistern
• Asbestos Insulating Board partition walls
• Asbestos Insulating Board panels in fire doors
• Asbestos rope seals, gaskets and paper
• Vinyl floor tiles
• Asbestos Insulating Board around boilers
• Textiles e.g. fire blankets
• Textured decorating coatings on walls and ceilings e.g. artex
• Asbestos cement roof
• Asbestos cement panels
• Asbestos cement gutters and downpipes
• Soffits – Asbestos Insulating Board or asbestos cement
• Asbestos cement flue