The dangers of asbestos


Once a commonly used building material and still present in many older structures, the dangers of asbestos are not to be underestimated, says Neil Munro of Acorn Analytical Services

Asbestos can be a hazardous substance but it is still worryingly commonplace in older buildings. The dangers of this material can be grave and it is something that everyone should be aware of for their safety. We’re going to be taking a look at the dangers of asbestos so that everyone is acutely aware of the hazards of the substance.

What is asbestos?

To make sure that everyone is educated properly on what the dangers of asbestos are, we need to make sure that you, the reader, understands what asbestos is. Asbestos is a substance that is comprised of hundreds of thousands of tiny fibres, which then look like the more familiar photos of asbestos that is all clumped together.

Hold on, why is it so common in buildings?

Many people may well find themselves asking why the fibres are so common if they are usually considered to be dangerous. This is because the threads are dangerous, but were also quite useful to people in the past.

When together as a clump or segment, the fibres within asbestos are very strong and also resist heat very well. This means that when it came to constructing new buildings, asbestos was the obvious choice for the structure due to its high strength and heat resistance, meaning that there was an improved chance of the building standing strong in the event of a fire.

It was not to last, however, as the alarming discoveries about asbestos came to the attention of the public and the government was forced to act. Buildings that contained the substance were deemed to be not safe and were thus destroyed. However, there were cases where the fibres were instead just removed, for the sole purpose of removing them and preserving the building instead.

So, why are these fibres so dangerous?

The question that a lot of you may well be asking is, “so what makes asbestos as dangerous as it is?” The biggest and most prominent concern for people who are exposed to asbestos is that it is, in fact, a toxic substance and is capable of killing people. The fibres are incredibly damaging to the circulatory and respiratory system, and if you’ve inhaled enough of it then there’s a high chance it will kill you.

One of the problems that further adds to the danger of asbestos is that it is tough to detect within the human body. When you first come into contact with the fibres, you will not know that you have inhaled them. The strands are tiny on an individual basis and this makes them impossible to locate inside your system. As well as this, the fibres have a delayed reaction time. They take longer than other conditions to make an appearance, with the substance being able to stay undetected for the best part of a decade. This means that even if you come into contact with the fibres, it could still be some time before you know if you’re at risk. This means that anyone who has worked on a site with asbestos or anyone who has come into contact with it should go and see a medical professional, especially if they feel out of breath or have problems with their lungs.

Overall, when you look at all of the risks that are associated with asbestos, it is easy to see why everyone should be cautious. The substance is toxic and will kill you if allowed to sit inside the system for long enough. While it is true that the asbestos itself was used in buildings for a very long time because it was considered to be strong and heat resistant, this was because a lot of people did not know the dangers that surrounded the substance, so it was a choice made in ignorance. Once they were aware of how the fibres were dangerous, they did stop using them and ordered the destruction of a lot of the buildings that contained asbestos.

However, the fact remains that there are still many buildings with asbestos inside and it is toxic to the human system, so the risks associated with this should not be underestimated. When you inhale the fibres, you’re putting yourself at risk of something that may not come into effect until some 10 years later, at which point it is too late to do anything about it. Only by wearing the correct protective equipment and ensuring that all asbestos removed safely can you hope to make sure that you aren’t at risk of these kinds of problems.

If you are working within a building with exposed asbestos, it is important to get an asbestos survey.


Neil Munro


Acorn Analytical Services

Tel: +44 (0)844 818 0895

Twitter @acornas



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