About AsbestosWhat you should know about it
The word "Asbestos" is a word spoken with trepidation ~ and for very good reasons.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that resists exposure to fire, sound, water, and chemicals. It is composed of millions of fibres, which bind together to create a light yet virtually indestructible material.
These properties that made this collection of fibrous minerals so useful in a wide range of applications and products, are now causing untold suffering in a large number of people who have been exposed, in some cases without their knowledge, to asbestos fibres in the air.
What is Asbestos?
- Asbestos is a natural mineral mined from the ground and used in thousands of products.
- Asbestos was used heavily from the 1930s-1980s because its dangers were not widely known.
- Asbestos is the only proven cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive and incurable cancer.
Asbestos was often used in:
- Cement as an additive
- Tile floors during the 20th century
- Roofing materials used after World War II
- Gasket materials for cars and pumps
The danger of Asbestos:
When asbestos in your home deteriorates over time, or become disturbed or damaged, asbestos fibres can be released into the air. It's a material with lots of staying power. Fibres can stay around your house for years. Once released, these fibres, especially the small, invisible variety, can be breathed into your lungs.
Over time, these fibres can build up in your lungs, causing lung cancer and mesothelioma ~ a cancer of the lung and abdominal cavity lining. Asbestos is a dangerous enough health risk that it even has a medical condition named for it: "Asbestosis", which is a permanent scarring of the lung tissue. These scars can prove deadly over time.
Asbestos is only a risk to health if asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in. Past contact with asbestos currently kills approximately 4000 people per year in the UK. There is no cure for asbestos-related diseases.
There is usually a lengthy delay between first contact to asbestos and the onset of disease. This can vary from 15 to 60 years. Only by preventing or minimising these exposures now will asbestos-related disease ultimately be reduced.
Asbestos and the law
Regulation 4 (CAR 2012) creates an explicit duty on building owners/occupiers to manage the risk from asbestos materials in premises. This duty to manage applies to almost every property in the country built before 1999 with the exception of owner occupied properties.
Thus all property owners, including local authority and housing associations, will need to:
- Take reasonable steps to determine the location, extent, condition and type of asbestos containing materials within their property
- Keep and maintain an up-to-date asbestos register and management plan
- Inform anyone who is likely to disturb or come into contact with any identified or presumed materials, the location and condition of the ACM.
The first step of a duty holder in managing their asbestos is to have an asbestos survey carried out of their premises.