Asbestos is well known as a very dangerous material than can be extremely hazardous to human health – so much so that asbestos is responsible for the deaths of more than 5,000 people every year. But asbestos was completely banned from use in the UK in 1999, so why is the material still such a danger to us?

Asbestos was once an extremely popular material that had a multitude of uses. It can be utilised directly as a form of insulation but was also used within other substances such as sprayed coatings, floor tiles and concrete. However, scientific research established that while asbestos had many benefits it was also causing thousands of premature deaths.

Asbestos is not inherently dangerous, but when the material is damaged or disturbed and fibres are released into the atmosphere they can be breathed into the lungs. Once here they are almost impossible to remove and over years they can begin to cause a range of diseases.

Some of the diseases that exposure to asbestos can cause include:

• Mesothelioma – a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs, almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos
• Asbestosis – a serious respiratory disease which can be disabling and fatal
• Lung cancer – people who have been exposed to asbestos are far more likely to develop lung cancer than those who haven’t

The sad truth about asbestos is that by the time many people realise they have been exposed to it, it’s too late to do anything about it. The diseases cause by asbestos take a long time to manifest. The overwhelming majority of the deaths from asbestos are caused by exposure many years ago when the substance was widely used.

However, this does not mean we no longer have any reason to fear asbestos. While it’s true that asbestos has been banned from use, it can still be found in almost any building or structure that was built before 1999. If you are concerned that you might have any form of asbestos in your home or place of work, you should get asbestos experts carry out a survey as soon as possible.