Asbestos causes an estimated 107,000 deaths each year worldwide, and is the biggest single occupational killer. In this article we discuss what makes asbestos so dangerous.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals. The fibres are soft and flexible, as well as being resistant to heat, fire, chemical corrosion, and electricity. Asbestos is an effective insulator and also has sound-absorbing properties. In the past, all of these properties made asbestos extremely desirable as a building material in the UK and worldwide. The use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 2000.

What was asbestos used for?

Asbestos is extremely versatile and was used in many different ways. For example, it was used in:

  • Adhesives and gold bond adhesives
  • Felt for roofing and flooring
  • Gaskets
  • Asbestos sheets
  • Cigarette filters
  • Construction products
  • Cosmetics
  • Ductwork connectors and flexible duct connectors
  • Electrical cloth and electrical panel partition
  • Fire proofing and prevention materials
  • Fume hoods and laboratory hoods
  • Insulation
  • Plastics
  • Talcum powder
  • Textile cloths and textile garments
  • Vinyl products

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos is fibrous. When asbestos products are disturbed, microscopic fibres that cannot be seen are released into the air. As the fibres are small, they can easily be inhaled or digested.

Once in the body, the sharp asbestos fibres move into the tissue. Unfortunately, it is impossible for the body to get rid of the fibres. Over many years, the trapped fibres cause inflammation and scarring. This can then cause genetic damage to the cells. This genetic damage can cause mesothelioma or other asbestos-related conditions such as pleural thickening, asbestosis or pleural plaques.

Why do asbestos conditions take so long to develop?

Asbestos conditions have a latency period of between 10 and 50 years. This means that after being exposed to asbestos it can take between 10 and 50 years for an asbestos disease to develop. This is because the asbestos fibre does not cause any problems when it first gets into the body. It is the fibre being stuck in the body over time that causes the inflammation that then leads to further problems.

Why doesn’t everyone who is exposed to asbestos get mesothelioma?

Thankfully, asbestos conditions are rare. Out of all the people who are exposed to asbestos, only a handful go on to develop an asbestos-related condition.

It isn’t clear why some people develop mesothelioma and others don’t. There have been people who have worked for 20 years with asbestos who do not suffer from any asbestos conditions.

How can we help?

If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim for mesothelioma or other asbestos disease, please contact us today on our Freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, you can head over to our contact page, fill in the form, and we will be in touch

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