Asbestos for Dummies

Posted on 24. Apr, 2013 by in Answers, Health Q and A

What the heck is it?

Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral. It is predominately used in fire-resistant materials and insulating materials. Asbestos when inhaled is extremely dangerous and for this reason it has been banned by the European Union in manufacture, use and extraction of the mineral.

What was it used for?

Most buildings that were built before the year 2000 will more than likely have asbestos included in their structure somewhere. There are three different types of asbestos’ blue, white and brown. White asbestos was most commonly used in domestic appliances and buildings, blue asbestos was used for insulation, lagging and spraying, and brown asbestos was used for thermal insulation in the 1960’s and in the 70’s it was used in spraying and coating insulation materials. Other examples of where asbestos was used include:

  • Pipe insulation
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Boilers
  • Sprayed coatings
  • Cement sheeting
  • Inside fire doors
  • The boards around windows, radiators, fireplaces, building columns and pillars
  • Fuse boxes
  • Electrical switch gear

So why is it so dangerous?

Lung cancer – similar concept to smoking; asbestos fibres grow and develop in the airways starting inside the lung and eventually spreading to outside the lung.

Mesothelioma - this is an incurable disease that is caused by exposure to asbestos. It affects the lining in the lungs, the pleura, and the peritoneum in the lower digestive tract. This disease is fatal in all cases.

Asbestosis – caused from over exposure to asbestos and it causes severe scarring to the lungs which will result in a shortness of breath and if this scarring is severe enough, it can become fatal in the long run.

Pleural thickening – scarring in the lining of the lung (pleura), due to heavy exposure to asbestos which causes thickening and swelling resulting in shortness of breath and over a period of time the chest will feel tight.

Find more information on the illnesses caused by Asbestos on Take 5 and Stay Alive.

What if I find Asbestos in my Home?

DO NOT MOVE IT. Asbestos is absolutely fine as long as it goes undisturbed. Once it is disturbed this is when it becomes harmful. Although, if you feel uncomfortable with the thought of having it in your home hire someone who is specifically trained in the removal of asbestos and be sure to be out of your home while the process is being carried out. As you now know asbestos is harmful if you become exposed to it! Check out this leaflet from HSE Asbestos which has lots of information on precautions to take when removing asbestos.

What if I have been affected by Asbestos?

Many people have been affected by asbestos both in small cases and larger cases where there have been fatalities.  The people who are mostly affected will be those in the construction or building trade who will be working with it directly on a regular basis. If you are suffering from an asbestos related disease such as the ones stated above you may be entitle to compensation. Check out the Asbestos Advice Helpline for more information and advice about being affected by asbestos. A shocking number of people contract these diseases and die from them each year, which makes one consider if asbestos is around you! Be aware of your home and surroundings, and if unsure get an expert in to check!


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