The risk of asbestos exposure in homes in the UK is very real and is of great concern among public health officials and the public in general, often asking the question Where and why asbestos was used in housing! The environmental protection in the UK has described the risk of asbestos exposure in homes and identified asbestos in products such as:
• Attic insulation
• Wall insulation
• Pipe insulation
• Asbestos cement, brick, and stucco
• Boilers and furnaces with asbestos components
• Floors containing asbestos
• Ceiling tiles
Asbestos found in the home but has not been altered is not considered highly dangerous. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it switches places or starts to deteriorate – these circumstances can cause the release of fibres from asbestos in the air, allowing them to be inhaled by people and pets that inhabit a house. Being exposed to asbestos in your home can lead to serious health problems and even fatal diseases. It is imperative that homeowners and tenants understand the risks of asbestos exposure that a household can have.
Asbestos Health Risks
This happens in demolition work such as cutting, drilling, breakage or when the material is very old. These fibres can cling to clothing so the risk of passing the through the air increases.
Diseases that can be caused are respiratory diseases. Lung cancer is the deadliest of diseases that affect people exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is considered a co-carcinogen, i.e. a physical external agent, either chemical or biological, that has the ability to cause cancer.
Another disease is malignant mesothelioma – another cancer but, in this case, it affects the pleura and peritoneum. This usually occurs in people who have been exposed to asbestos for work, although symptoms may not appear until 20 to 30 years after exposure. There is no cure for this disease and the average life expectancy after detecting the disease is nine months.
Asbestosis is directly associated with exposure to asbestos disease. It is the development of pulmonary fibrosis after inhalation of asbestos. As malignant mesothelioma develops over the years, the symptoms are shortness of breath that gets worse as the disease progresses, a dry cough and feeling of tightness in the chest.
Asbestos in the Home
Millions of homes were built in the UK during the decades when asbestos was considered a miracle material, for its characteristics of being resistant to fire and heat. Asbestos is extremely strong and very versatile: it can be formed into sheets, can be used as an ingredient in other materials, it can be woven into textiles, and can even be sprayed on surfaces. It was not until the late seventies that home builders began to reduce the use of materials that contained asbestos.
If you are concerned about the risk of asbestos exposure in homes, there are many things you can do and some things you should not do in relation to asbestos.
What if I suspect there is asbestos in my house?
The common rule is to leave asbestos untouched. DIY jobs can result in high levels with even the briefest of contact to unsafe asbestos fibres.
Asbestos is generally harmless, unless it is broken or altered – for example, by removing, drilling, sawing or sanding the substance. If you think you have asbestos material at home, caution should be especially given when performing any works or renovations. We recommend against the attempt to carry out isolated, individual work with asbestos spray or boards, as they always should be done by a specialist contractor in asbestos removal.
• Common Rules
• Avoid producing asbestos dust
• Avoid inhalation of asbestos dust
• Materials asbestos in decent condition should be avoided
• Be very careful when carrying out DIY
• Discard properly (this should always be the case when it comes to lining pipes, sprayed asbestos insulation)