Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance that can be pulled into a fluffy consistency, asbestos fibres are flexible but resistant to heat, electricity and chemical corrosion, it is these qualities however that make asbestos highly toxic.
Asbestos can be present in many materials, and although it is no longer used, it can still be present in buildings today. It is when asbestos fibres are disturbed or damaged that fibres can be released into the air.
Asbestos can cause many fatal and serious diseases, such as:
- Mesothelioma – a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs. The most common area affected is the lining of the lungs and chest wall;
- Asbestos-related lung cancer;
- Asbestosis – a lung disease resulting from the inhalation of asbestos particles, marked by severe fibrosis and high risk of msothelioma; and
- Pleural thickening – a lung disease in which extensive scarring thickens the lining of the lungs (the pleura).
To understand how asbestos fibres can cause cancer, it is necessary to understand how cancerous cells affect the body. When a person develops cancer, healthy cell division is affected whereby the growth of cancerous cells is made possible.
According to the NHS, more than 2,600 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK. Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to cure mesothelioma, although treatment can help control the symptoms.
Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres that used to be widely used in construction. It is the tiny fibres from asbestos that can easily get into the lungs, where the would get stuck and damage the lungs overtime.
The fact that asbestos causes cancer has been largely undisputed for nearly 50 years, however there are many links to asbestos causing mesothelioma. Many studies are being conducted into how dangerous asbestos is.