Many people are aware that asbestos is a dangerous substance that can cause serious harm to human health – but others don’t really understand why it’s important to avoid being in close proximity to it.

According to government statistics, asbestos is still responsible for more than 5,000 workers’ deaths every (more than the number of people killed on the roads), despite the fact that the use of asbestos was completely banned in the year 2000.

The problem is that before 2000, asbestos was widely used in the construction of many buildings across the country. So if you live or work in a building that was built or refurbished before 2000, it’s a possibility that it contains asbestos somewhere.

But don’t panic – asbestos that is in good condition is not usually a danger to health. It’s only when the asbestos is disturbed or damaged and the tiny particles are released into the air and breathed into the lungs, that it is dangerous.

As asbestos is often used for things such as insulation, it’s not usually seen or in danger of getting disturbed. Nevertheless, owners of commercial buildings are required by law to have a plan in place to deal with any asbestos, such is the risk posed the fibres.

Some of the diseases that asbestos can be responsible for include:

  • Asbestosis – this is a condition that can occur if someone has been exposed to asbestos over many years. It causes scarring in the lungs which can make it more difficult for a sufferer to breathe and lead to shortness of breath
  • Mesothelioma – this is a form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs. This is a disease that is almost only ever caused by asbestos exposure
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer – other forms of lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos, producing a similar effect to the lung cancer caused by smoking
  • Pleural thickening – this is another condition that is caused by long-term asbestos exposure. This sees the thickening of the lining of the lung which can lead to breathing difficulties

Many of these diseases and conditions do not present symptoms immediately or for more many years. That’s why asbestos can be so dangerous – because by the time someone realises they have symptoms, it’s too late to do anything about it.

This means it is so important that if you are worried about asbestos in your home or workplace that you should have professionals survey the problem and give advice on what you should do to minimise the risk of exposure.