Asbestos: a brief history

Asbestos is a material that was widely used in many buildings such as schools and homes from the 1930s up to 1999 in the UK. Comprised of readily available minerals, it was hailed as something of a wonder material due to its versatility and fire retardancy. Unfortunately, the danger from exposure to asbestos dust became evident over time and whilst often it was an occupational hazard, it could also be ingested when touching or washing the clothes of someone who had been exposed. Industrial areas of the UK in the early 1900s were filled with factories where asbestos dust was at deadly levels. The workers were by and large without any protective equipment or sufficient advice on how to protect themselves. It wasn’t just the workers; many more people became sick due to secondhand exposure as fans from the factories pumped asbestos dust over gardens and areas where children played. Families either living in proximity of these factories or working in them were unknowingly jeopardizing their health daily. It was a deadly environment to live in with no knowledge of the potential harm. The impact of asbestos did not reveal itself in some cases until decades after the exposure.

Mesothelioma

Many people have heard of asbestosis, but mesothelioma is another disease caused by exposure to asbestos. It is quite a rare cancer with around 2700 cases a year and is more common in older people. In the UK, on average each year, around 50 out of 100 (around 50%) of the cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over. Mesothelioma is more common in men than women. It is generally believed that this is because often it is caused by exposure to asbestos at work and the more male dominated types of employment that used asbestos.

Mesothelioma in the chest (pleural mesothelioma) is much more common than mesothelioma in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma).

Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs include:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • a high temperature (fever) and sweating, particularly at night
  • a persistent cough
  • loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • clubbed (swollen) fingertips

Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lining of the tummy include:

  • tummy pain or swelling
  • feeling or being sick
  • loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • diarrhoea or constipation

Prevention

Though some treatment can help to control the symptoms it’s rarely possible to cure mesothelioma. Sadly, this is not something that is consigned to the history books, we are still losing more people in Britain to asbestos related deaths than we do in road accidents each year. There is still a risk of disturbing asbestos related materials in anything built before 2000. It is not a material that anyone should be taking chances with so if you suspect you have asbestos in your property we can help. From site surveys, testing, lab analysis and removal, at Artisan we are fully trained and licensed to deal with asbestos using safe and professional methods.