Asbestos has been around a very long time.
There are six asbestos fibre types but for this article, we’ll focus on the three most common of Blue, Brown and White.
Chrysotile (white) asbestos is the most naturally abundant and there is evidence of its use dating back to 4000BC, that’s over 6000 years it’s been used! Chrysotile makes up for about 95% of the global use of asbestos.
Crocidolite (blue) asbestos was discovered in 1805 in South Africa. So has been in use for over 200 years.
Amosite (brown) asbestos was discovered in 1907, also in South Africa. So has been in use for only over 100 years.
Asbestos legislation is not a recent development, only the old fools, the ignorant or the uneducated say things like:
We used to cut it, drill it and throw it around and I’m okay
Anyone who did cut it, drill it and throw it around has just been lucky so far but they may be unlucky in their future. Prevention of exposure is the only cure.
The health risks have been documented as early as the 1890’s. The first registered and published death in the UK was in 1924 though there were deaths suspected from asbestos as early as 1900 but they were not published.
By 1934 the link to asbestos fibre exposure and risk of disease was clearly established. By 1960 there was a clear link with exposure causing asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Yet asbestos was still very much commercially exploited and used throughout the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It was still used in the 1980’s (higher risk materials such as Asbestos Insulating Board up to 1985) and the final ban in the UK wasn’t until 1999.
1999 was only 19 years ago yet the first suspected death was in 1900 which is 118 years ago. This is madness. Clearly, there was money to be made in exploiting this material and the cost of human lives. Current death statistics in the UK are nearly 5500 deaths every year due to asbestos exposure. This is about 2500 from Mesothelioma, 2500 from Lung Cancer and 500 from Asbestosis. Globally the numbers are 200,000 per year.
So ask yourself:
Do you know enough? Are you doing enough? What could you do better?
Would you satisfy a surprise audit from the HSE on how you are complying with your legal duty to manage your asbestos?
Remember, any building constructed before the year 2000 could contain asbestos. This includes houses.
It’s not a new problem, it can’t be ignored.