Who is most at risk?
Asbestos is not a thing of the past, despite what many people believe.Â Itâ€™s still present in millions of homes and commercial properties across the UK and, when disturbed, itâ€™s a killer.
People who work in the trades are most at risk of exposure. Asbestos kills 20 tradespeople in the UK every week, including 4 plumbers 6 electricians and 8 joiners (source: HSE), making it the single biggest cause of work-related deaths. It can take between 15-60 years for the symptoms of some asbestos-related diseases to develop. Once diagnosed itâ€™s often too late to do anything.
And itâ€™s more than your life on the line. Turning a blind eye or being unsure about the risks presented by asbestos is not just a risk to your own life and business. Tiny invisible asbestos particles can stick to clothes and tools, meaning that you could be unknowingly putting your family, colleagues and friends at risk.
Conditions caused by Asbestos
Mesothelioma – A type of cancer that affects the â€˜mesotheliumâ€™ â€“ a thin lining in your chest and abdomen. Even low levels of exposure to asbestos can cause it if repeated over time, and unfortunately the disease is incurable.
Asbestos-related lung cancer – It develops in the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. It can grow within the lung and it can spread outside the lung through the rest of your body.
Asbestosis – A serious type of scarring in the lung caused by high levels of exposure to asbestos fibres. The scarring causes the lungs to shrink, resulting in breathlessness.
Pleural thickening – A problem linked to heavy asbestos exposure. Scarring of the lining of the lung (pleura) covers a large area and the lining thickens and swells. When this happens the lung is squeezed, causing breathlessness and discomfort.
Pleural plaques – Areas of scar tissue on the lining of the lungs (pleura). Usually there are no symptoms and pleural plaques do not cause any long-term health problems.
Have you been exposed to Asbestos?
If you think you have might have been exposed to asbestos in the past, it is important that your GP knows. Seek medical advice if you have any symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain, and make sure you talk to your GP about:
- Any past or present jobs where you may have been exposed to asbestos
- Living with someone who has worked or works in a job where asbestos is or has been present
- Your symptoms and how to relieve them
- Tests you might need
- Whether you should see a consultant
Asbestos – The Hidden Killer
Christopher Morgan was diagnosed in November 2008 with mesothelioma – an incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. He was working as a pipe fitter when he came into contact with the deadly fibres, and here he and his partner Jean tell their stories.