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Every week on average, 20 tradesmen die from exposure to asbestos in the UK.

Asbestos was extensively used as a building materials in the UK from the 1950's through to the mid-1980's. 

It was used for a variety of purposes and was ideal for fireproofing and insulation.

Any structure built before 2000 can contain asbestos. 

Asbestos materials in good condition are safe unless asbestos fibres become airborne, which happens when materials are damaged. 

When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they cause serious diseases which are responsible for around 4,500 deaths a year.  

Asbestos-related diseases do not produce signs or symptoms immediately, so protection is essential to prevent contracting an asbestos-related disease in the future.

Smokers exposed to asbestos fibres are at much greater risk of developing lung cancer.

What are asbestos fibres?

  • They are present in the environment in Great Britain, and people are exposed to very low levels of fibres. A key factor in the risk of developing an abestos-related disease is the total number of fibres breathed in.
  • Working on, or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels increases the possibility of an asbestos-related disease.  


Four main diseases caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres
  • mesothelioma (always fatal);
  • lung cancer (always fatal);
  • asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be debilitating);
  • diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal);
Beware Asbestos web app

Protect yourself and your work mates with HSE's free Beware Asbestos web app.

HSE guidance on asbestos

Access the HSE guidance pages to find out more. 


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