It is widely known that asbestos causes a range of serious and sometimes fatal conditions, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Here are four of the top asbestos myths and the truth behind the illusions.
1. Myth – small amounts of asbestos aren't dangerous
While the majority of asbestos disease cases involve people exposed to large quantities of the material, such as tradespeople working with asbestos, it can take as little as a single fibre to cause a disease like mesothelioma. If you suspect that there is asbestos present in a building, you shouldn't take unnecessary risks just because there may only be small quantities of it.
2. Myth – I can handle asbestos safely if I wear a dust mask
This is a common and dangerous asbestos myth. Research over more than fifty years has shown that basic protective equipment like dust masks or overalls are not enough to offer protection from asbestos fibres. If you are working with asbestos or encounter it in your home, you should ensure you seek proper advice on how to deal with it.
3. Myth – because the disease doesn't develop for years, I don't need to worry if I'm working with asbestos later in life
Asbestos related disease usually takes years, sometimes decades, to manifest itself, but in some cases, particularly where a person has been heavily exposed to asbestos for an extended period of time, conditions can develop much earlier. Children or other family members who are exposed because a member of the household comes home in clothes covered in asbestos may also be vulnerable to developing the disease comparatively early in life.
4. Myth – asbestos is just a white, crumbly substance, so it's easy to identify and avoid
Asbestos comes in many different forms – in its natural state, it can be found as blue, white, brown and green asbestos. Blue asbestos tends to be the most dangerous, followed by brown and white. In addition, it is frequently used in building materials, engineering products (particularly heat-resistant products) and machinery in forms that are difficult to recognise.
Asbestos was frequently used in car brake pads in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, so it is important to be asbestos aware if you were working on machinery either during your employment or in your home. Because it was such a good insulator, asbestos is also found in many houses, making it possible that you will encounter it when carrying out renovation work. Heating engineers who used asbestos insulation on pipes would have been at particular risk.