Dangers of Asbestos

Here at DDS Group, we routinely undertake asbestos removal around the UK. We have been providing the service for over 40 years. Although the use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, a large portion of buildings still have asbestos within them which sees us regularly called out to safely dispose of it.

What is Asbestos 

Asbestos is a natural mineral fibre and, up until 1999, was commonly used in the construction industry within commercial and residential properties. It was widely used as a result of its fire-retardant and corrosion-resistant properties, both of which made it a seemingly excellent choice for insulation and making other materials (e.g. paper and cement) stronger.

We now know that asbestos can be harmful to health, so it is no longer used in any capacity. Despite this, the law permits asbestos to remain in existing properties as long as it is undisturbed.

Where Asbestos is Used

Asbestos was mostly used as an insulation product, but it can also be found in:

  • Insulation boards
  • Roof sheeting
  • Lagging
  • Rope seals
  • Floor tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement
  • Sprayed coatings (walls, ceilings and beams)
  • Textiles
  • Car components such as brake pads, gaskets and clutches

There are a number of other places asbestos can be found in residential and commercial properties, but the above list features some of the most common areas you might find toxic mineral fibre.

Why is Asbestos Dangerous? 

When disturbed, fibres in asbestos are released into the air and could be inhaled. The toxic fibres get trapped in the mucous membranes and may become settled in the lungs or digestive system. This is when it can present serious health issues. Unless asbestos is disturbed, the fibres will remain intact and may not cause a threat, but for many – especially older tradespeople – the damage is already done.

It’s thought that 20 people die every week from previous exposure to asbestos. Over the course of one full year, more than 5,000 tradespeople die from asbestos-related diseases. For context, fewer people die in road traffic accidents every year.

Asbestos-related diseases can take decades to come to light because of the latency of asbestos fibres. This means by the time a diagnosis is made, the damage has already been done and there is not often a lot that can be done to reverse the problems caused.

Asbestos Related Diseases

There are a number of diseases that can be caused by asbestos, including the following:

Asbestosis 

When a person is exposed to asbestos for a prolonged period of time or over many years, they may develop asbestosis which is chronic scarring of the lungs. Most people diagnosed with the condition experience frequent breathlessness – in serious cases, it can be fatal.

Lung Cancer

Being exposed to asbestos can have the same effects on the lungs as smoking. The lungs of someone with smoking-related lung cancer and asbestos-related lung cancer look almost identical, highlighting the damage that settled fibres can do to vital organs. It’s thought around 4% of all lung cancers are related to asbestos. The average life expectancy for someone with an asbestos lung cancer diagnosis is around a year and a half post-diagnosis.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer that affects the pleura (lung lining) and the peritoneum (the lower digestive tract lining). It is associated almost solely with asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, the prognosis is nearly always fatal because diagnosis tends to come too late for most people.

Pleural thickening

The pleura (lining of the lungs) can be affected in more ways than one by asbestos exposure. In the case of pleural thickening, the lining of the lungs thickens to a point when the lungs are compressed. This can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, including a tight chest and short breathiness.

COPD 

COPD, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a serious health issue that affects the lungs. It is a diagnosis that refers to chronic emphysema and bronchitis. Sufferers often have a history of working with asbestos, and it is commonly a complication of asbestosis or mesothelioma.

COPD affects the elasticity of the lungs, meaning it’s difficult for patients to exhale, causing wheezing, chest tightness, excess mucus production and difficulty breathing effectively.

How to Manage Asbestos 

Whilst asbestos may not necessarily pose a direct risk if left undisturbed, it’s often best to remove the substance and replace it with something safe. DDS Environmental are experts in removing asbestos safely. We take every precaution to keep our staff safe and secure by adhering 100% to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR), minimising the risk of health issues to both our clients and our team.

If you would like to find out more about our asbestos removal service, including management, surveys and air monitoring, please contact us.