Asbestos is actually a set of six naturally occurring fibers that can be separated into thin threads. Asbestos is a recognized health hazard and its use is regulated by OSHA and EPA.
It's recognized for its heat resistance, strength, and insulating properties. It's used for everything from fire-proof vests to construction. Today, asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma cancer and is banned in more than 50 countries. More than 75 different types of jobs expose workers to asbestos, according to OSHA. It's also estimated that 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases are military veterans.
The construction industry is hit ht hardest, with plumbers, electricians, and pipe fitters being among the most vulnerable. Many exposures to asbestos are second-hand exposures, and families of workers who unknowingly bring the deadly fibers home. Homes and apartments built before 1980 are often filled with asbestos. It can be found in floor tile, furnaces, plumbing, window caulking, and roofs.
In 2013, 2,538 UK residents died from mesothelioma. Insurance companies argue that asbestos litigation has taken too much of a toll on their industry. The Association of British Insurers states that insurance policies will cover removal of asbestos only as part of a homeowner's damage claim and not just because it is identified. For many years, the damages of asbestos went unnoticed in the UK. Legislative measures were brought in, once the health risks became known.
The United Kingdom's asbestos century ended in 1999, after the European Union banned chrystotile. It had been the only type permitted in the UK. Asbestos has been used in the UK since the end of the 19th century. Large quantities of it were used from 1950-1970.
Use of asbestos was banned in 1969 and in 1999, it became illegal to use materials containing asbestos. Asbestos was banned because of the alarming increase of mesothelioma cases being diagnosed. In the UK, over 4,000 people die every year from cases related to asbestos.
A common misconception is that work in residences does not fall under the same requirements of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Workers are place at risk due to misunderstanding of the regulations. In a survey by the British Lung Foundation, it was found that 45% of the 2,000 homeowners surveyed did not realize that asbestos had been used as a building material in their home.
The British Lung Foundation also calculates there are about 14 million homes in the UK which were built was being used. They say that asbestos is safe as long as its not disturbed. A list has been produced for UK homeowners of the most likely places to find asbestos and how to deal with it if found.
It should never be sanded or drilled, and surfaces should be dampened to stop dust from being released. To remove asbestos from a home, owners are encouraged to call the local authority or contact a certified asbestos removal company. The waste has to have a special collection process.