Asbestos Myths And Facts: What You Need To Know


Asbestos is a word that invokes a fear that is frightening due to its known and irreversible damage it can cause to a person’s health. Even though we recognise the dangers, there are still a large number of deaths caused by people being exposed to asbestos. Once a person has been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease e.g. Mesothelioma, there’s nothing that can be done to save that person; this is where the fear factor comes in. It could be many years if not ever, when there is a cure for people with Mesothelioma. The one saving grace in relation to Mesothelioma is that it takes many years for it to develop and cause the death of a person, but by no means should this be an excuse to not try and find a cure for it.

When Asbestos was used

Asbestos was widely used in buildings in the 20th Century. Only properties that were built after 2000 can be sure to not have any asbestos present in the fabrics of the building. However, this is only in the UK; there are many countries around the world that continue to use asbestos when building properties and therefore, deaths will still occur as a result. It could take years for the UK even to get rid of all buildings where asbestos is present.

The UK prohibited asbestos to be used in buildings in 1999 by making it the law. Meaning that any person who has worked on buildings prior to 2000, could be at risk of being exposed to asbestos; many people in the construction trade today will have worked on buildings prior to 2000.

Asbestos Myths

As with many other general things, there are myths surrounding what asbestos is and how it can affect us. Below are the myths that surround asbestos:

“Breathing in one asbestos fibre can kill you”

Breathing in one asbestos fibre cannot kill a person; this is a myth that’s being bandied about for many years. There are even several different types of asbestos fibres that can be found in items such as, rocks and are natural in origin. Therefore meaning that asbestos fibres are constantly in the air, in which case, people are constantly breathing in small quantities of asbestos fibres.

“White asbestos (chrysotile) is not dangerous”

White asbestos is a dangerous type of asbestos fibre, but is not as dangerous to a person’s health as others. White asbestos (chrysotile) is classified as carcinogen.

“When white asbestos (chrysotile) is put into cement, the cement reacts with the asbestos fibre over the years and causes a chemical change, which makes the asbestos non harmful”

This is a lesser known myth, but there are some who still believe that white asbestos is not dangerous once it has been blended with cement over several years. This is certainly not true; no matter how long the white asbestos has been mixed into the cement, the asbestos is still extremely dangerous and there is no evidence that suggests otherwise.

“Mesothelioma is always the result of being exposed to asbestos fibres released by man”

This too is a myth; mesothelioma has been harmful to humans prior to man starting to disturb and release asbestos into the atmosphere.

About Asbestos

Removing and disposing of asbestos is not always the best practice; if asbestos is in good condition and not disturbed, the risk to health is minimal. However, the asbestos needs to be monitored on a regular basis. If asbestos fibres are removed and have been disturbed, this is when the danger of asbestos exposure occurs and therefore, is counter-productive. Only when there is a need to remove asbestos should it be removed.

Despite the health implications that asbestos exposure can cause, there continues to be a large amount of ignorance in relation to asbestos. People are scared of it and what it can do, however, in comparison with how other cancers are caused and how they can be helped to be prevented, asbestos is still a health hazard that is largely misunderstood.

Featured images:
  • License: Image author owned
  • License: Image author owned
  • License: Image author owned

Sharon has worked in the health and safety sector for many years and has gained invaluable knowledge when it comes to asbestos and the risks to a persons health.