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Lesson 10

Asbestos – Health Risks

Exposure to asbestos and asbestos containing materials can be deadly. Each year around 5,000 people in the UK die as a result of illnesses caused by asbestos.

In the past exposure to asbestos affected people working:

  • in industries that used the mineral as a raw material
  • where it was imported, such as docks
  • installing insulation in buildings, factories, or industrial plants

Today people are more likely to be exposed after disturbing ACMs. Although it is no longer used in construction, there are still many ACMs present which can be accidentally disturbed during a variety of works, which can lead to exposure.

At least 25% of people that die from asbestos diseases have worked in construction and maintenance jobs.

Health risk stats

  • Exposure can cause a number of diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma
  • Some of the illnesses caused by asbestos could take up to 60 years to develop
  • Asbestos-related diseases cause over 5,000 deaths in the UK each year
  • 2,515 deaths from mesothelioma in 2014
  • Around 20 people working in trades die each week due to past exposure to asbestos
  • Smokers are 53 times more likely to get a form asbestos-related cancer if they have been exposed