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Exposure To Asbestos – Understanding Symptoms and Prevention Tips

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Last Updated on 10 October 2023

Asbestos is a hazardous material which has had and continues to have many dangerous effects on people’s lives over the years. Not only can long-term asbestos exposure lead to deadly diseases, like asbestosis, It can also be fatal if a person is exposed suddenly or in varying doses which can cause Mesothelioma. Therefore, It is hugely important for everyone to understand the risks of being exposed to asbestos and how to protect themselves from it.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what asbestos exposure is, its symptoms, and the best ways to avoid it.  As a result, you’ll be more aware of how to identify potential sources of asbestos in your environment and how to protect yourself from its harmful effects.

Additionally, we will outline the steps you need to take to stay safe from and prevent being exposed to asbestos. And we will provide helpful advice for those already affected.  Then subsequently, with this information in hand, you can make informed decisions about protecting yourself and your family from the dangers of asbestos.

As the world health organisation WHO correctly outline, “There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos”

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once widely used in industry due to its heat resistance and durability.

There are six types of asbestos minerals, but only three were extensively used in the manufacturing process: chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.

Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, was the most commonly used asbestos material and accounts for the majority of asbestos-containing materials in buildings.

Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were commonly found in building materials like insulation, roofing, and flooring.

The total number of ACM’s in the built environment is considered to be in the region of 4000.

Consequently, when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, they release tiny fibres into the air that can be inhaled or ingested, causing harm to the body.

Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause serious health problems, including diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a Group 1 Carcinogen that can pose serious health risks to individuals who are exposed to it.

Next, In the following section, we will discuss the various health risks that are associated with asbestos exposure.

Asbestos-Related Diseases

Being exposed to asbestos can lead to various diseases that affect the lungs and respiratory system, and even the abdomen. Asbestos fibres, when inhaled, can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause scarring and inflammation.

As a result and over time, this can lead to the development of asbestos-related diseases. Some of the common asbestos-related diseases include:-


A type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart and is usually fatal.

Lung Cancer

Being exposed to asbestos can significantly increase the risk of developing lung cancer, especially in individuals who are also smokers.


A chronic lung disease that results from prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres.  Sometimes known as asbestos poisoning.

Asbestos-related diseases are serious health problems that can lead to severe respiratory issues, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Therefore, It is important to understand the symptoms of asbestos poisoning to protect yourself from this hazardous mineral fibre.

Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos poisoning, also known as asbestosis, is a chronic lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. These fibres can accumulate in the lungs and cause scarring, making it harder for the lungs to expand, contract and exchange oxygen.

Here are some common symptoms of asbestos poisoning:-

1. Shortness of breath

People poisoned over time by asbestos can start to feel short of breath, even when they are not engaging in any physical activities. This symptom can worsen over time as the scarring in the lungs progresses.

2. Coughing

Another common symptom of asbestos poisoning is a persistent cough. This symptom is typically dry and does not produce phlegm.

3. Chest, shoulder or back pain

People poisoned by asbestos may experience chest, shoulder or back pain. This pain can be sharp and can worsen when they breathe in deeply or cough.

4. Loss of appetite

Asbestosis can cause loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss. This can further exacerbate the shortness of breath associated with the condition.

These symptoms can be difficult to diagnose as they mimic those of other respiratory issues. Therefore, If you believe you may be experiencing these symptoms and have a history of asbestos exposure, it is important to consult a medical professional for a proper diagnosis.

Furthermore, If you have been exposed to asbestos over a long period of time, it is important to monitor your health and watch out for these symptoms. Early detection and intervention can help slow the progression of the disease.

Asbestos poisoning can cause shortness of breath, coughing, chest, shoulder and back pain, and loss of appetite. If you have been exposed to asbestos, be sure to monitor your health for these symptoms and seek medical attention if you experience them.

chest pains sbestos poisoning symptom

Chest pain is a common symptom of being exposed to asbestos over a long period

Prevention: How to Protect Yourself from Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a hazardous substance that can cause irreversible damage to your health. However, you can take steps to protect yourself from exposure and prevent asbestos poisoning.

Below are some safety measures you can take to safeguard yourself from asbestos.

Remember, however, that in the UK, any work with asbestos containing materials ACM’s should only be conducted by licensed or appropriately trained individuals:-

  1. Commission or consult an appropriate asbestos survey before starting work on any building constructed before 2000. This also complies with Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). For works that are likely to damage the fabric of the building this must be a ‘refurbishment/ demolition’ asbestos survey.
  2. Plan the work safely around any asbestos containing materials or ensure they are appropriately removed first. This allows for compliance with Regulations 5/6 of the CAR 2012.
  3. Ensure you have appropriate ‘asbestos awareness training’ from a recognised source such as IATP (www.iatp.org.uk) or BOHS.
  4. Seek professional help. If you suspect you’ve been exposed to asbestos or have symptoms of asbestos poisoning, seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further damage to your health.

Remember that prevention is the best strategy when it comes to asbestos exposure. Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and anyone else who may be at risk.

Protecting yourself from asbestos exposure is crucial for preventing asbestos disease. Ensure appropriate surveys and planning are undertaken, receive appropriate training, and seek professional help if you suspect exposure or experience symptoms.

Who is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?

As we know, asbestos is a hazardous substance that can cause serious health problems. Furthermore. exposure to asbestos fibres through inhalation can lead to a range of respiratory diseases as outlined above, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural plaques and asbestosis.

Asbestos has been widely used in a variety of building materials and industrial products for decades due to its durable and heat-resistant properties.  As a result, many people may be at risk of being exposed to asbestos without even realising it.

Here are some groups of people who may be at a heightened risk of being exposed to asbestos and therefore, asbestos poisoning:-

1. Industrial workers

Those who work in industries where asbestos was commonly used, such as construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing, are at an increased risk of inhaling asbestos fibres. They may be exposed to asbestos while cutting, drilling, or sanding asbestos-containing materials.

2. Military personnel

Asbestos was used widely in military vehicles, planes, ships, equipment and buildings, putting service members at risk of being exposed. Veterans who served before the mid 1980s are often more vulnerable to asbestos-related illnesses or asbestos poisoning.

3. Residents or workers in older buildings

Older buildings constructed before the mid 1980s may contain higher risk asbestos products such as asbestos in insulation, ceiling tiles, wall panels and other materials. When these materials deteriorate, they can release asbestos fibres into the air.  However, It’s important to remember that asbestos was still used and its use wasn’t completely banned in the UK until November 1999.

4. Emergency responders

In America, responders who worked at the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks in 2001 had elevated levels of asbestos exposure.

The collapse of the buildings released significant amounts of asbestos into the air, putting those on the scene at risk.

Similarly in the UK, emergency services attending older buildings in the form of firefighters, police and medical personnel all face potentially similar risks.

Thus, If you work in any occupations that access buildings constructed prior to the year 2000, please be sure to take all appropriate safety measures, training and always read the asbestos survey.


asbestos surveyor wearing ppe

Person wearing protective clothing for asbestos


Asbestos Exposure and the Law

Asbestos is a highly toxic and hazardous substance that has been linked to a number of serious health conditions. As a result, the UK has its own regulatory government body, the HSE. They have established guidelines and enforce UK laws to help protect the public from exposure to this dangerous material.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are dedicated to ensuring that workplaces are safe when hazardous materials, including asbestos, are present.

In the UK, the main regulations that apply to the use and control of asbestos are The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.  These regulations outline the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises, including identifying the location and condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), assessing the risk of exposure, and developing a plan to manage the risk.

Consequently, under the UK asbestos regulations, employers are required to take certain steps to protect their workers from being exposed to asbestos. These include training, conducting regular testing or inspection for the presence of asbestos, providing employees with personal protective equipment where required, and implementing safe work practices and procedures.

Treatment for Asbestos Exposure

If you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos or are experiencing symptoms related to asbestos exposure, you should seek medical assistance immediately.

Moreover, early detection and treatment are key to reducing long-term health consequences of exposure to this hazardous mineral. In this section, we’ll take a look at the most common treatment options available.

Oxygen Therapy

One of the most common treatment options for asbestos disease is oxygen therapy. By increasing oxygen levels in the blood, therapy can help alleviate symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain. This treatment method is typically administered through a nasal cannula, face mask, or other similar devices.

Health Care

Those who have been exposed to asbestos should seek regular medical check-ups and consultations to monitor their health for any potential long-term effects. Depending on your health status, your doctor may recommend additional tests, such as chest X-rays, CT scans or pulmonary function tests.

Pneumococcal Vaccination

People with asbestos disease are at higher risk of developing serious lung infections including pneumonia. A pneumococcal vaccination can help protect against pneumococcal disease, which is caused by Streptococcus pneumonia and is a common cause of pneumonia.

Treatment for Mesothelioma

Immunotherapy, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy are commonly used treatments for mesothelioma, a type of cancer primarily caused by asbestos exposure. The following treatments can be used individually or in combination, depending on the specific circumstances and stage of the disease.


Immunotherapy is a treatment that helps to stimulate the body’s immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells. It involves using medications known as immune checkpoint inhibitors, which block proteins that inhibit the immune response. In addition, Immunotherapy can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with other therapies to improve outcomes for mesothelioma patients.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to target and destroy cancer cells. It can be employed in different ways for mesothelioma, including as a curative treatment, as a palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, or as an adjuvant treatment alongside surgery or chemotherapy to prevent cancer recurrence.


Chemotherapy involves the use of medications that kill or inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It is commonly used as a systemic treatment for mesothelioma, as the disease often spreads beyond the primary site. Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously or directly into the affected area, such as the chest cavity for pleural mesothelioma. It may be used before surgery (neoadjuvant), after surgery (adjuvant), or as the primary treatment for inoperable cases.

The choice and sequencing of the above treatments depend on various factors, including the stage of mesothelioma, overall health of the patient, and individual treatment goals.

Therefore, It’s important for patients to consult with a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals experienced in treating mesothelioma to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for their specific situation.

If you have been exposed to asbestos or are experiencing symptoms related to asbestos poisoning or an asbestos-related disease, seek medical assistance immediately. Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, oxygen therapy, regular medical check-ups and consultations with a physician. And potentially getting vaccinated against pneumococcal disease to prevent serious lung infections.

Conclusion – Exposure To Asbestos

In conclusion, asbestos exposure is a serious health hazard that should not be taken lightly. The symptoms can take years to manifest and there is currently no cure for this disease. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to prevent being exposed to asbestos in the first place.

So If you suspect that your home or workplace may contain asbestos, seek professional help immediately.

Remember that prevention is key in avoiding the devastating effects of asbestos exposure.  Stay informed, stay safe, and take action today.

Contact a professional Asbestos Surveyor to get your home or office checked for asbestos and take necessary steps to protect yourself from this harmful substance.

Need asbestos advice?

We hope you found our article helpful.  If you need any help or advice with any aspect of asbestos management, then we’ll be very happy to assist.  Give us a call and our experts will give you some advice and guidance on whatever if is you’re concerned about.

Please contact us on 0800 141 2676, email us at info@rbasbestos.co.uk or fill in the form below.

Our professional asbestos surveyors conduct asbestos inspections and asbestos surveys every day across the UK on all types of properties.  We provide surveys on residential and commercial properties, for private home owners and commercial property Managers and owners.  So when it comes to managing asbestos in your property, you’re in very safe hands with RB Asbestos Consultants.

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