Most people do not fully understand what asbestos is and how it can be harmful, unless it has affected them or someone they know.

This is particularly the case for young people who are unlikely to have been taught what it is at school.

Asbestos still remains a threat

Despite the use of asbestos in to the UK having now been banned for decades, the substance still remains a threat today and is still something even young people need to be aware of.

According to the Committee on Carcinogenicity: “the younger a person is when they are exposed, the greater the risk of developing mesothelioma”. This is because of the latency period being anywhere from 15 to 60 years. As a result, younger people are more likely to live long enough for the disease to manifest itself.

Vital young people understand the dangers of asbestos

Despite the fact that asbestos is still present in a vast number of buildings in the UK, including schools, sports centres, supermarkets and other public buildings, there is little public awareness amongst the younger generation.

As a consequence, we are likely to see increasing numbers of people who have been diagnosed with an asbestos condition but who are unable to tell us where they might have been exposed to asbestos. To prevent this cycle of exposure, it’s vital that young people understand the dangers of asbestos exposure and take an interest in how exposure can occur accidentally.

For example, young people are frequently just getting onto the property ladder and have paid for the cheapest possible survey. These quick surveys often make little or no reference to asbestos or its dangers and can lead to new homeowners accidentally exposing themselves to asbestos in the course of DIY projects.

Speak up to stay safe

The British Safety Council started a campaign known as Speak Up, Stay Safe. This aims to put young workers, who may be less confident when starting a new job, to speak up about health and safety issues. 

Even though asbestos was banned in the UK from 1999, the material remains in many buildings. Evidence from the report indicates that young workers still can’t always rely on their employers to follow the proper safety guidelines when it comes to asbestos.   This is particularly so as we approach the summer when many younger people take on casual work during their school or college holidays.

In 2014, the Health and Safety Executive surveyed 500 construction workers and only a third were able to identify the correct measures for safe asbestos working. One in four thought that opening a window would help keep them safe

In order to keep young people and workers safe, education about the dangers of asbestos exposure, no matter how small, is imperative.