The dangers of asbestos are well known, or at least I thought they were until a colleague was recently told to drill through an asbestos wall by another contractor.
Having worked in the building trade for over 30 years, and having known people who have contracted asbestosis, we thought it timely to remind people why asbestos is dangerous.
When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases, most notably asbestosis and lung cancer. These diseases will not affect you immediately, they often take a long time to develop. Once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important that you protect yourself and more importantly hire an expert to tackle and dispose of any asbestos material.
The signs of disease linked to asbestos exposure take years to develop, in many cases over 15 years. It is estimated that asbestos still kills around 3,500 people each year, this is more than the number of people killed on the UK’s road. Around 20 contractors die each week as a result of past asbestos exposure.
However, asbestos is everywhere because it was used extensively in the building trade up until it was totally banned in 1999. Asbestos is at its most dangerous when it is being broken up so never attempt work when you think you may come across asbestos.
Provided the material is intact and in a position where it cannot be easily damaged, it will not pose a risk to health. So back to my colleague, he declined to drill through the asbestos – and that is the right thing to do. If you ever come across a builder or contractor that says it is okay to meddle with asbestos without the proper safety equipment, our recommendation would be to find a new contractor. They are not only playing Russian roulette with their lives, but with yours and those living in close proximity who could breathe in the deadly fibres.
If you would like advice on asbestos removal contact us at McCarthy Partnership.