Most people have heard of asbestos and many realise it is dangerous. But exactly how dangerous is it?

There have been many cases in recent years of people who worked with asbestos some decades ago, only to be diagnosed with lung cancer later on. More specifically, cases of mesothelioma have been cropping up that were caused by earlier exposure to asbestos. This is one of the major causes of this particular type of cancer.

Asbestos can also cause a disease called asbestosis. This is a condition that causes scarring of the lungs. Excessive exposure to asbestos is the root cause of this, and it can occur in people who have worked in such an environment for years.

How does asbestos cause damage?

This substance causes damage when it is breathed in. Being around asbestos will not in itself cause you any harm, but you must wear the correct protective clothing and masks in order to protect yourself.

The big danger posed by asbestos comes from the fibres. These are breathed in and while the body is fairly good at removing many of them, it is rarely able to remove them all. People used to work with asbestos without protection, in the days when no such protection was thought to be needed. Over years they breathed in many particles of asbestos and this led to more of those particles becoming trapped in the lungs.

This is why many people who develop asbestos related diseases do not do so until a long time after they were exposed to it.

Are there different types of asbestos?

Yes, there are several types and some constitute more of a danger to health than others. The different types include amosite (brown), crocidolite (blue) and tremolite (which can be one of several colours).

Some types are known to be more dangerous than others as well. Blue and brown asbestos are generally considered to be the most dangerous of all. Another type called chrysotile, which is white, is the least dangerous to those handling it.

However, all types of asbestos should be handled properly and with the utmost care. If you think your property may have asbestos present, do not try to move it or get rid of it on your own. Instead, leave it where it is and contact a qualified professional to handle it for you. Those who work or deal with asbestos today must adhere to very strict guidelines to ensure they remain safe from harm. They will know exactly what to do in order to remove the asbestos safely and with the least disruption to the material itself.

If you do suspect you live or work somewhere where asbestos is present, don’t panic. Providing you stay away from it and don’t touch it (or worse, try to break it up to get rid of it) you should be perfectly safe. Professional removal is the best course of action; if the asbestos is solid, the fibres should not be in the air either.