2. Why asbestos is dangerous and where it can be found
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Why asbestos is dangerous
Asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building built or refurbished before 2000.
You cannot see, smell or feel the fibres in the air or on your clothes, so you do not know they are there.
When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When people inhale these fibres they can cause serious diseases which cannot be cured. The most common diseases caused by asbestos are:
- asbestos-related lung cancer
These diseases will not affect you immediately – they often take a long time to develop. But once you have been diagnosed it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important to protect yourself and others now.
What to do if you come across asbestos
If you come across any material you think may contain asbestos, you must:
- stop work immediately
- follow the guidance on what to do if you think you have found asbestos
Where asbestos can be found
Since 1999, using asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of buildings has been illegal. However, in the past, it was used widely for such things as:
- lagging on plant and pipework
- insulation products such as fireproof panels
- asbestos cement roofing material
- sprayed coatings on structural steel work to insulate against fire and noise
These are known as asbestos-containing materials and may still be present in buildings.
Asbestos can also be hidden in a building, for example in cavity walls.
It is very important that these buildings are inspected for asbestos-containing materials.