January 4 2013

Asbestos is a word that conveys a previously less conscious health and safety world, where people unknowingly lived day in and day out in the home and workplace exposed to contamination and hazardous materials.

Although the effects of working with asbestos are evident in the thousands of people who were employed to manufacture and install the harmful material during the 1950’s & 1960’s, it seems the knowledge provided was limited.

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate materials which were used in the UK commercially from the late 1800’s. Being an ideal product for sound absorption with good tensile strength, its fire and heat resistant properties and affordability it became an invaluable commodity within the construction industry where it was often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats.

Blue & brown asbestos was only banned in the UK as recently as 1985 although there was a voluntary ban in place before this from the early 1970’s. White asbestos wasn’t banned until 1999.

The risks of exposure to asbestos were recognised as early as the late 1800’s, although the full effects were not completely understood until much later, possibly due to the commercial value of the product. In 1952 it was proposed that asbestos containing products should carry warning labels although this was never instigated.

The inhalation of asbestos fibres over a lengthy time period can lead to debilitating diseases and can be fatal in some cases. Consequently it is those who worked with the product on an everyday basis between the 1950’s and early 1980’s who are now most likely to be seeking compensation

In accordance with HSE guidance all exposure to asbestos should be avoided, however that does not necessarily mean that you should worry about a one-off exposure. A one-off short term exposure is unlikely to be of concern, but each time you are exposed, the risk increases a little bit more.

Diseases as a result of chronic asbestos exposure can have incubation periods of up to 30 years.