Just because there is “no known asbestos”, this does not mean there is “no asbestos”.
Billy McEwan, Scottish Hazards campaigner and GMB health and safety rep at West Dunbartonshire Council .
Asbestos is a material that occurs in large amounts in almost every continent on Earth. Traces of asbestos fibres have been found in debris dating back to the Stone Age. There is archaeological evidence that it was used to embalm Pharaohs, make Bronze age pottery fire resistant and make funeral shrouds for the Ancient Greeks.
Asbestos can be found in any common type of construction, including in floor coverings, ceiling tiles, roofing felt, glazing putty, internal walls and fire door linings. Any building constructed before 2000 has the potential to contain asbestos.
Scottish Hazards Centre has been closely involved with the many local organisations that have been formed to support people and their families who have been affected by asbestos.
There are 4 main diseases associated with asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma (a disease which affects the lining of the lungs), asbestos related lung cancer, asbestosis (scarring of the lung tissue) and non malignant pleural disease (thickening of lung tissue and pleural plaques).
Direct contact with even a few fibres of asbestos can affect health. There are even documented cases involving people who were exposed through clothing of family members.
For low levels of exposure to asbestos, the disease of most concern is mesothelioma. There is generally a long period between exposure and diagnosis – generally about 40 years – but once diagnosed, life expectancy is around 8 months.
A number of legal firms are building expertise in the possibility of legal redress for victims of asbestos-induced disease. Thompsons Solicitors has been involved in campaigning to strengthen the law in this area. Difficulties can arise in making compensation claims due to the long latency periods which mean that claims can be complex. Identifying where and to what extent the exposure occurred can be difficult to pinpoint. However, Thompsons are building an extensive database of places asbestos was used, witnesses, and so on, which can prove invaluable and which continues to grow.
Scottish Hazards Centre is clear that there is NO safe limit on exposure to asbestos.