25% of Brits are unaware of the health risks of asbestos exposure

25% of Brits are unaware of the health risks of asbestos exposure

New research has shown that shockingly, 1 in 4 people are not fully aware of the serious health risks posed by asbestos. Worryingly, the highest proportion of those unaware were aged between 16-24.  

The research1, conducted by online asbestos awareness course provider, High Speed Training, surveyed 2000 UK respondents to reveal whether people could spot asbestos in the home, and what their course of action would be. 

Asbestos is a hidden killer that is responsible for 5,000 deaths a year. Despite now being banned in the UK, asbestos can still be commonly found in homes and other buildings built years before restrictions were put in place. 

Respondents were unsure on the best course of action and the dangers posed, with nearly three quarters of people unable to confidently identify asbestos and 39% of people not knowing how to deal with it. Additionally, 20% of individuals were unsure of whether they should remove it themselves, with a further 3% answering that they would attempt to remove asbestos themselves. 

Social platforms such as TikTok have helped to boost the popularity of home renovation content, with #homerenovation totalling 8 billion views alone. Thanks to influencers documenting the highlights of their home improvement journeys, and with more people taking on DIY tasks themselves, it’s likely that increasing numbers of homeowners may come into contact with asbestos themselves.  

The survey also revealed that amongst 24-35 year olds, only 60% would seek professional help to deal with asbestos. With the average age of first time buyers sitting at 33 years of age in 2023, those looking to enter the property ladder should be aware of the dangerous risks asbestos could pose if not dealt with professionally. 

Catherine Hickabottom, Learning and Development Quality and Process Manager at online asbestos awareness course provider, High Speed Training, explains the health risks, how to identify asbestos and what course of action to take, ensuring health and safety is always front and centre. 

What are the health risks? 

With 25% of individuals unsure of the health risks posed by asbestos it’s important to highlight how dangerous the material can be, and how best to deal with it. Asbestos was commonly used between the 1950’s and 1980’s, although it was only banned in the UK in 1999, so it could be present in any homes built during that time. 

Catherine says: “If an asbestos material is damaged or disturbed, it releases lots of tiny asbestos fibres into the air. When these are inhaled, they become trapped in the lungs’ air sacs, and eventually lead to the reduced capacity to take in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Breathing in asbestos fibres can lead to many serious health problems of the respiratory tract later in life.” 

Should you be able to identify asbestos in the home? 

The study also concluded that 10% of people don’t know where asbestos would be present in the home.  

Where respondents would expect to find asbestos in the home: 

  1. In the walls (33%) 
  2. On the ceilings (31%) 
  3. Insulation (30%) 
  4. Around the boiler (18%) 
  5. Pipes (14%) 
  6. In the floors (13%) 
  7. Water tank (13%) 
  8. Near the fireplace (12%) 
  9. In the airing cupboard (12%) 
  10. In the bathroom (10%) 
  11. Near the fuse box (7%) 
  12. Near the windows (7%) 

Whilst asbestos is more common in some areas than others, it can be found in all of the indoor areas listed above. 

Catherine says: “Asbestos is most commonly found on roofs and mixed in with cement. It cannot always be easy to tell if asbestos has been used as there are no indicators of sight, smell or colour. Asbestos comes in many colours, shapes and forms and the fibres are also incredibly small. If you find anything suspicious you should arrange to get the material tested to ensure that the type of asbestos is correctly identified.” 

What should you do if you find asbestos in your home? 

Catherine says:Asbestos can pose such a big problem, that if it’s revealed in surveys before you buy a house you might want to reconsider the purchase. Removing asbestos safely can cost thousands, so it’s important to be aware of what asbestos removal might entail. You should never remove asbestos yourself– the safest way is to call in qualified professionals to remove it for you.  

“The good news is that asbestos is not harmful if it is in good condition and undisturbed. If you are aware of the presence of the material but you don’t plan on moving it, then it’s safe to leave it in place. However, if your DIY work will involve damaging or removing asbestos, then it will need to be handled by professionals.” 

Understanding the health risks associated with asbestos is crucial, especially if you’re moving to a new property. Awareness of what asbestos is and how it can be dangerous should help to inform you how it should be dealt with. If you believe you have asbestos in your home, you should leave it alone and speak to a professional if you’re looking to remove it, as it can be hard to spot and should always be tested and dealt with by a professional.  

For more information on asbestos awareness courses visit: https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/courses/health-and-safety/asbestos-awareness-training/    

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