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What Is Asbestos: Where Did It Come From And Why Is It So Dangerous?

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

You may have heard the word ‘asbestos’ a lot, and heard that it is dangerous but found in some older buildings or building materials. But what exactly is it? Why is it so dangerous? If you’d like to know more, this article gives an overview of what asbestos is, why it was used, and why it never is now. Indeed, asbestos is only ever something you want to be removed from your home, or to leave well alone.

asbestos wall being sprayed

The Origins Of Asbestos

Though it may sound like an industrial synthetic material, asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral and has been found in man-made items that are thousands of years old. It is mined from rocks and other natural deposits and then milled for its fibrous material. The word asbestos has been used since as early as the 1600s.

Asbestos fibre has many resistant properties. It’s resistant to fire, electricity, and chemicals. It is also an excellent thermal insulator. For these reasons its uses are many, and it became more and more widespread in the late 19th century for construction. It didn’t take long for the first people to suffer from asbestos-related illness and death, but it wasn't until 1999 that all types of asbestos were banned in the UK.

Health Issues Caused By Asbestos

These days, asbestos is a known carcinogen and is banned in many countries around the world. Often it's requested to be removed rather than used. The problem with this hardy material is partly due to its hardiness. The microscopic fibres that are easily loosened and spread during use can be breathed in, where they may irritate, scar, and eventually even cause gene changes that lead to cancer.

Health conditions caused by asbestos can take many years to develop, but by the time they are diagnosed, it can often be too late. The most commonly associated cancer, Mesothelioma, is incurable. In the UK, more than 2,700 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Asbestos-related illness in general has been reported to cause over 5000 deaths each year.

Many deaths will be in people in their 70s or over, who have worked in industries using asbestos before it was banned. Asbestos-related illness and their symptoms can take years to manifest.

Though banned, asbestos can be found today in many buildings due to its use before 1999. If your property was built before 2000, asbestos could have been used in a variety of instances around the home.

However, asbestos is not considered to be dangerous if in whole, unbroken pieces and left well alone. It may be present in roofing insulation, between walls, or for lagging or other coating materials. If you suspect asbestos in your home you should consult with asbestos experts to identify it, especially before disturbing it in any way. It is strongly advised that asbestos treatment be carried out by professionals.

For specialist asbestos solutions, or to find out more, contact Evans Asbestos.

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