With a full awareness of the hazards connected to asbestos exposure, both historic and current, HASAG Asbestos Disease Support offer this pragmatic guide with practical considerations for those who have come into contact with the toxic mineral.
Mesothelioma is a rare tumour but it is a condition which is recognised as one which can be caused by very small exposures to asbestos. It is a fact that the only known cause of Mesothelioma is asbestos.
In a circumstance where an individual develops Mesothelioma and there is any history of past asbestos exposure, even if the exposure is a one off or is at a very low level, opinion favours that exposure as being responsible for the development of the illness.
The different types of asbestos fibre have varied tendencies to cause injury but there is no doubt that asbestos related conditions can be caused by any type of asbestos fibre.
The risk of a Mesothelioma or any other asbestos related disease occurring increases in proportion to the overall asbestos exposure. Successive periods of exposure increase the total dose and increase the risk that an asbestos related disease will occur.
There is usually a long interval between exposure to asbestos and the onset of any symptoms of asbestos related disease. The minimum period between exposure and onset of the condition is thought to be 10 years. The period is more than 30 years in most cases but there is no upper time limit between exposure and development of a related condition.
Two decades after asbestos was banned in Britain it is still causing illness and death. The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) collated figures for a recent report which revealed that in this year alone over 130 companies and individuals had been ordered to stop work activities because of failures to comply with asbestos safety requirements and regulations.
These 130 prohibitions are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exposures and it is certain that these documented cases of unsuitable working methods represent only a very small percentage of incidences where there were failures implementing suitable levels of safety when working with and around asbestos. Such failures cause a significant risk of exposure and a consequent development of an asbestos related disease.
It is a fact that workers in the course of their employment and others continue to be exposed to asbestos.
The following websites provides a very useful, if not somewhat terrifying, guide of where asbestos is still likely to be located in normal domestic environments:
Exposure to asbestos is not just limited to trades people although it is fair to say that they are the group who are at most significant risk.
Mesothelioma may be the most widely known consequence of low levels of asbestos exposure but there is a groundswell of opinion that Pleural Thickening, itself a debilitating respiratory condition, can be caused by low levels of exposure to asbestos.
Conditions such as lung cancer and asbestosis can only be caused by very significant exposures to asbestos. Anyone at risk of developing these conditions would certainly know where and how they were subjected to what would be prolonged and heavy exposures.
Regulation of all interactions with asbestos is supposed to have become rigorous and exacting from the 1970’s but the rules and regulations are not always followed and as a result lives continue to be put at considerable risk.
Symptoms of Asbestos Related Disease.
For anyone who has a history of exposure to asbestos, even if it is a single and low dose exposure, it is important to be aware of symptoms which might signpost the development of an asbestos related condition.
For further information on the symptoms please click here.
Steps to take if you have been exposed.
If you think that you have been exposed to asbestos it is very important that you tell your GP of the exposures as that background information will impact upon and direct the treatment you receive if you present with any of the symptoms listed above.
If your job, past or present, is one where there is a risk of exposure, then this is very important to have this history documented plainly within your GP notes and records.
If you live or lived with someone who was at risk of exposure this should be notified to your GP and documented in your medical notes.
If you come across any situation where you are exposed or suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos this should be noted in your GP records. This should not be limited to exposures which are related to your employment or the employment of those you live with.
It is important that your GP has knowledge of any asbestos exposures as it will emphasise the significance of presenting with any of the symptoms listed above. Remember, while asbestos primarily causes lung disease it can cause other diseases and problems with other parts of the body.
If you suspect recent exposure to asbestos then there are certain steps it would be wise to take.
• Document the exposure.
• Research the product and the location of the exposure.
• Research whether there are any known relationships between the places where you worked, or where you were exposed, the asbestos product with which you have had contact, and a history of asbestos related disease.
• Make enquiries as to asbestos testing or asbestos surveys.
• Ensure that the asbestos material or product is tested for asbestos content.
• Consider notifying the Health and Safety Executive, the local Council.
The risk of developing asbestos disease are impacted upon by how long a person has been exposed to asbestos, the concentration of and the type of a fibre inhaled. Even with that being the case it is still recommended that anyone at all exposed to asbestos should keep a detailed record of any exposures. It is useful to document and record a description of the asbestos product; the dates, duration, frequency and intensity of any exposures; a description of the dust (for instance noting if it was visible, whether it got onto clothes, boots and surfaces); who cleaned up the asbestos, how it was cleared and where it was taken to be disposed; it is also useful to document details of co-workers and witnesses who will be able to confirm and provide detail of the exposure.
Remember that it is possible to become ill and develop Mesothelioma, or Pleural Thickening with minimal exposures to asbestos so it is important to document and record any and all exposures.
1. Tell your GP;
2. Ensure you have appropriate screening;
3. Monitor your health for symptoms which might be related to asbestos disease;
4. Get any symptoms checked quickly;
5. Maintain and retain an exposure history and have this placed upon your GP record;
It is important to know and to be reassured that it is unlikely that low level exposures to asbestos will to lead to any injury. This guidance, whilst cautionary, is meant to be helpful, practical and sensible.
It is very important to make contact with a support group such as HASAG Asbestos Disease Support if you have any queries or concerns. Remember, you are not alone, and whatever the issue be reassured in the knowledge that help is at hand to provide support, to tackle the issues and to share your asbestos troubles, burdens or worries.