What is asbestos
Asbestos was used extensively during the 1970s as insulation around pipes, tanks, and other building materials. It is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that do not conduct electricity and are not affected by heat or chemicals. These fibres are both strong and flexible and can be broken up and woven into thin threads. It is for these reasons that asbestos was used so widely in many industries.
There are two types of asbestos: chrysotile asbestos and amphiboles. Chrysotile asbestos is in the serpentine group of minerals and has curly fibres. The other type, amphiboles, have rod like fibres. These fibres have the tendency to break into a dust of minute particles which float in the air or stick to clothing. When these are inhaled they can cause health problems.
Asbestos related health problems are the biggest single cause of work related deaths in the UK. Around 1% of men over the age of 40 will develop an asbestos related disease. It is also increasingly being found in women.
What causes disease?
Exposure and particularly prolonged exposure to asbestos is the cause of the disease. Exposure to asbestos does not mean a person will become ill, but the only way to prevent asbestos related disease is to avoid any exposure. There is no safe level of exposure.
Diseases caused by asbestos:
Asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs that has been caused by inhaling asbestos fibres. These have then been inhaled into the lungs where they fill the breathing passages and cause irritation, inflaming and scarring the tissue. It also causes the lungs to shrink which results in breathlessness. It is often decades after exposure to asbestos before any effects become evident.
For more information on:
- Lung cancer