The term asbestos refers to a group of minerals, the most common of which are chrysotile, crocidolite and amosite.
Asbestos is non-flammable, heat resistant, and extremely flexible and durable. It was nicknamed “the magic mineral” because these properties made it suitable for use in thousands of products.
Asbestos has also been dubbed “the hidden killer”. When materials containing asbestos are damaged or disturbed, fibres are released into the air. Each fibre is so small it is invisible to the naked eye. When you breathe in the fibres, they remain in your body, and can cause a number of different diseases.
Even today, around 5,000 workers in the UK die each year from asbestos-related diseases.
Because they typically take years to develop, more people are still being diagnosed with these diseases each year, even though asbestos is now banned.
In the UK, the import, supply and use of crocidolite (‘blue asbestos’) and amosite (‘brown asbestos’) was banned as of 1st January 1986.
Chrysotile (‘white asbestos’) was similarly banned as of 24th November 1999.
However, many buildings built before this date still contain asbestos, and so even today people are still being exposed to asbestos.