RISKS AND DANGERS
ACMs only become a risk to health when damage occurs or whilst being subjected to disturbance such as being cut, drilled or sanded which will release asbestos fibres to become airborne.
Whilst in a good and sealed condition and in a location unlikely to be disturbed, asbestos materials provide very little, if indeed any risk to health.
The danger comes from inhaling air containing asbestos fibres. If the fibres are small enough they can penetrate deeply into the lungs and lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Asbestos fibres, small enough to evade the lungs initial defence mechanism, penetrate deeply into the alveoli (air sacks). The lungs microbiological defence system (macrophage) continually attack the fibres, but because asbestos cannot be broken down (except under very high temperature) the fibres remain in the lung causing scarring and inflammation along with congestion caused by the build of macrophage debris. This slowly reduces the lungs ability to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the blood, breathing becomes more and more laboured resulting usually in a painful death.
Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleura (the lining of the chest cavity and lung), it is a rapidly spreading cancer that can often spread to other organs. It along with Asbestosis is usually caused by long term exposure to airborne asbestos fibres. The onset of the symptoms of Asbestosis and Mesothelioma may appear as early as ten to fifteen years after exposure, but may take as long as sixty years. Unless caught very early, usually there is no cure for either Asbestosis or Mesothelioma, especially where the ailment is in an advanced state, the average survival time is between four and eight months from diagnosis.
In the early 2000's it was estimated that 3,500 people each year died from asbestos related diseases. Reports suggest that this figure is likely to rise to between 7,000 to 10,000 by the year 2020