10 Surprising Facts and Statistics About Asbestos

How many people die of asbestos-related diseases every year? Can asbestos fibres be seen by the naked eye? Who’s most likely to suffer from exposure to asbestos? Why is asbestos called the silent killer?

Find out 10 surprising facts and statistics about asbestos in this guide from the Casa Environmental Services team.

1 – There are Multiple Types of Asbestos

There are actually 6 different types of asbestos; Chrysotile, Crocidolite, Amosite, Tremolite, Actinolite and Anthophyllite.

Chrysotile (white asbestos), Crocidolite (blue asbestos) and Amosite (brown asbestos) were used extensively  in the UK construction industry before 1999 and are the 3 most commonly found types of asbestos in the UK.

Tremolite, Actinolite and Anthophyllite were not used commercially and are therefore much rarer in the UK.

2 – Asbestos Fibres are Microscopic

Many Asbestos fibres are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. They can only be seen when analysed under a microscope at a dedicated asbestos identification laboratory.

3 – There are Four Asbestos-Related Diseases

Exposure to asbestos has been discovered to be the primary cause of Asbestosis, Lung Cancer, Mesothelioma and Pleural Thickening, all of which are serious health conditions.

  • Asbestosis – A chronic respiratory disease which can lead to scarring of the lungs and cardiac failure.
  • Lung Cancer
  • Mesothelioma – A rare form of cancer that typically occurs in the thin membrane lining of the chest, lungs, abdomen and sometimes the heart. Approximately 2,500 – 3,000 people are diagnosed with this condition every year in the UK.
  • Pleural Thickening – Thickening and swelling of the lining of the lungs.

4 – Asbestos Kills Thousands of People in the UK Every Year

Research conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) indicates that asbestos was responsible for over 5,000 deaths in the UK in 2019, which is among the highest Asbestos related death rates in the world. As the UK was one of the largest importers of asbestos and continued to permit its use long after it had been banned in other countries (it is estimated that over 6 million tonnes of asbestos were imported to the UK from the early 1900s), the UK has one of the highest asbestos-related mortality rates in the world.

On a global scale, it is thought that around 90,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases every year. Asbestos exposure is also thought to be the number 1 cause of work-related deaths in the world.

5 – Asbestos Deaths are on the Rise

Concerningly asbestos-related deaths are showing no signs of slowing down and are in fact increasing annually. It can take years and sometimes even decades (which is why asbestos is also known as the silent killer), for symptoms of asbestos related diseases to develop and because it wasn’t banned in the UK until 1999 some people may not display symptoms of previous exposure until much later.

6 – Asbestos is Only Dangerous When Airborne

Asbestos only poses a risk to your health when fibres become airborne and respirable. This often occurs as a result of damaged being caused to the material in some way. Once the fibres are airborne they can be inhaled into your body through the mouth and nose and get trapped, thus causing life-threatening health problems. If asbestos is in a good condition and is located somewhere where it can’t easily be damaged it is unlikely to be a risk to you.

7 – Asbestos Can be Found in a Variety of Places

Asbestos was used extensively in the construction industry towards the end of the 21st century as it possessed a wide range of favourable properties such as strong heat resistance and sound absorbing qualities. As a result, it can be found in almost any part of a building. Places it is most commonly found in include –

  • Insulation
  • Artex
  • Ceilings and ceiling tiles
  • Floor cavities
  • Roofs
  • Pipes
  • Boilers
  • Cement panels

8 – Some People are More Likely to Develop Asbestos Related Diseases

Anyone who is exposed to asbestos  is, potentially,  at risk of developing an asbestos related disease. However, those who have worked in the construction industry, and some other industries such as ship building, are most at risk as they may have been exposed over long periods of time during their working lives.

9 – You Might be at Risk from Asbestos Exposure

Although the use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, as it was used so extensively it still may be present in many buildings constructed before this time.

Arranging for a UKAS accredited asbestos survey to take place will determine whether asbestos is present in your building or not. A qualified asbestos surveyor will not only identify the location of any ACMs but will also establish how much of a risk they currently represent. A management plan can also be devised to ensure the asbestos is effectively managed on an ongoing basis.

10 – Asbestos is Still Being Mined in Some Parts of the World

Despite the health issues associated with the mineral there is still a global asbestos industry. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos are still being mined annually in countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Brazil.

Asbestos Surveys, Awareness Training & Analytical Services with Casa Environmental Services

Here at Casa Environmental Services, we provide UKAS accredited asbestos surveying and analytical services across the UK. Whether you’re after a reliable survey, want assistance in creating a management plan or are looking to attend an asbestos awareness training course.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team today. We have years of experience in the industry and have all the resources needed to ensure you are able to comply with The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

See more: Asbestos Testing Kit – What You Need to Know Before Buying an Asbestos Testing Kit

See more: Asbestos Insulation – A Guide to Asbestos Used in Insulation