The Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos is a word that many people in the UK are familiar with, many of them for the wrong reasons. Widely used as a building material because of its resistance to high temperatures, asbestos is actually a hazardous material that can severely damage health. Sadly, the dangers of exposure to asbestos were not identified for years as asbestos related diseases usually take time to develop, meaning that hundreds of people were exposed to the danger and are still at risk.
Asbestos only becomes dangerous when airborne and ingested into the lungs, where it can cause extreme damage. The two main types of lung diseases caused by exposure to asbestos are asbestosis, a chronic fibrosis of the lungs, and mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the lungs. In 2007, figures show that 2156 died of the more common of the two, mesothelioma, and not all from direct exposure themselves: it is thought that even washing the clothes of someone who has been exposed to asbestos can be dangerous, as trapped particles stored in the materials can be released and inhaled.
Some people who worked with asbestos years ago could be suffering from related diseases today, or could be in the process of developing them. However, these workers are not the only ones at risk, as many locations still exist where asbestos is present and becomes extremely dangerous if preserved. Luckily, since asbestos related diseases were recognised by the medical profession in 1920, regulation concerning the control of the mineral has developed in leaps and bounds. Thanks to the Control of Asbestos Regulations NI 2007, exposure to any lingering asbestos is carefully monitored and minimised.