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The Dangers of Asbestos

  • Asbestos kills around 5000 people a year – more than the number of people killed on our roads.
  • Around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure to asbestos.
  • Asbestos is not a problem of the past – it is still present today in many buildings.

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop. Once an asbestos related disease has been diagnosed, by then it is too late for a cure. This is why it is important to avoid contact with asbestos fibres.

This photo is an electron micrograph taken from a person suffering from asbestosis. It shows a macrophage (a cell responsible for detecting infectious agents) impaled on an asbestos needle.

Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause the following fatal diseases:


Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum).

Lung Cancer

Asbestos-related lung cancer is similar to lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.

These three photos show the progressive and devastating effects on a healthy lung when exposed to asbestos fibres.


Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition causes progressive shortness of breath.