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Written by
on 14 May 2012


Like so many other regions around the world, the United Kingdom has battled asbestos concerns for decades. Use of this toxic mineral occurred in just about every industry, placing millions of workers at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease later in life.

Asbestos was utilized for its ability to insulate and fireproof materials. It was easy to mix into products and it could be purchased at a very low cost. Although the hazards associated with asbestos were well established by medical professionals, companies continued to manufacture asbestos products to save money.

The U.K. has since banned all uses of asbestos and so has all 26 other members of the European Union. Even with the ban in place, asbestos remains a concern for U.K. citizens because exposure can still occur from old asbestos-containing materials. This is why asbestos awareness has to remain a focal point in the United Kingdom.

Impact of Asbestos Exposure in the UK

There are no immediate side effects of asbestos exposure and most people don’t even know they’ve been exposed, but an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma can develop as much as 50 years after exposure occurs. Other asbestos-related conditions include lung cancer and asbestosis, both of which take more than 10 years to develop.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the U.K. has more mesothelioma deaths per capita than any other country except Australia. In 2008, 2,249 people passed away from mesothelioma cancer. The HSE has been tracking mesothelioma deaths in the region since 1967.

Similar to other countries associated with significant asbestos use, the United Kingdom’s construction industry has been the source for most asbestos exposure occurrences. In addition to residential and commercial construction, schools throughout the U.K. were made with asbestos construction products. Today, students and teachers in some schools still face asbestos exposure risks.

Other occupations throughout the United Kingdom that have faced increased risks for exposure include:

  • Construction workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Factory workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Automotive mechanics

Raising awareness about the hazards of asbestos exposure is important so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Most people have heard about asbestos and understand it is dangerous, but not too many know how it was used or where it is typically found.

If people have a better understanding of how exposure occurs and what to do when asbestos is suspected in a building or workplace, the future incidence of asbestos-related disease will naturally decline.

Guest Blogger Bio: Jensen Whitmer has been writing for the Mesothelioma Center for more than three years and he has an interest in spreading awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure.


About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.