Smart Asbestos Awareness

When is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral which can be torn into smaller fibres. Its durable, heat and acid resistant properties make it ideal additive to consumer and building products.

The big issue with asbestos is that it is hazardous to health and can cause numerous health implications.

When asbestos is released into the atmosphere the needle like fibres can be breathed in and stick to the lungs. Over time the body’s immune system will attack the fibres which can result in disease or death.


Asbestos has been made into different building materials like pipework insulation and vinyl floor tiles. Both materials contain asbestos but viewed differently in terms of their risk to health.

Pipe lagging contains 100% asbestos and can easily become “friable”. The term “friable” means that it can made into a dust easily, released into the air and then breathed in. Pipe lagging in poor condition will likely become friable and is a high risk to health.

Vinyl floor tiles are classed as a lower risk to health compared to the insulation. They have an asbestos content up to 25% and are “non-friable”. The term “non-friable” means that the asbestos is bonded with another material like plastic and more difficult to turn into a powder. The asbestos is less likely to be released into the air if damaged.

Remember that asbestos containing materials in poor condition should be reviewed by a competent person. The material will most likely need to be treated, encapsulated or removed.

Health Effects


Mesothelioma killed 2,565 people in the UK in 2016. This type of cancer usually starts in the thin layers of tissue which line the lung (the pleura). More rarely Mesothelioma will start in the layer of tissue in the abdomen which surrounds the digestive system.

For many years doctors found Mesothelioma difficult to diagnose due to having similar symptoms to other types of cancer. These symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and chest pains. There is no known treatment for Mesothelioma.


Asbestosis is a long-term and irreversible lung disease.  The disease is caused by breathing in a large amount of asbestos fibres over a long period of time. Those who have worked with or around asbestos are most likely to suffer from Asbestosis.

The sharp asbestos fibres scar and cause inflammation of the lung.

Those who demolish or refurbish buildings which contain asbestos are the most at risk of developing asbestos. Precautions can be taken to stop or reduce the chances of developing the disease.

There are no effective treatments for Asbestosis. Sufferers are usually disabled for the rest of their life and need breathing equipment. The disease often results in a reduced capacity to breath and then death.

Other Cancers Caused by Asbestos

Other forms of cancer have been directly linked with asbestos as well as cancers which are “positively associated” with asbestos.

Direct cancers include cancer to the Larynx, ovaries and lung. Indirect cancers include stomach, pharyngeal and colon cancers.

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