What is Asbestos ? – Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which is fire-resistant; chemical resistant and has a high tensile strength, making it a once widely-used component in construction materials. It was first used in building and construction in the UK in the late 1800’s. Extensive usage occurred within the construction of buildings, between the late 1940’s until the mid 1970’s. However, some products were still being installed prior to a total UK wide ban, as late as 1999.
It is estimated that over 5 million tonnes of asbestos was imported into the UK and installed within as many as 1.5 million commercial buildings alone. There are a number of different types, but the most frequently occurring are: Crocidolite (blue); Amosite (brown); Chrysotile (white). Although the properties of these asbestos materials differ, all have been found to cause a number of fatal lung diseases when their fibres are released into the atmosphere and inhaled. Asbestos-related diseases (including: mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer) currently kill approximately 3000 people each year in the UK. This figure is expected to rise to 10,000 within the next decade.