Asbestos Information Page

Sources, problems, health impact, using at work, identification and disposal of asbestos

What is the impact of asbestos exposure?

Asbestos will only pose a risk to health if it is disturbed or damaged and asbestos fibres are released into the air. Breathing in asbestos fibres is dangerous and can lead to people developing the following fatal diseases:

  • Asbestosis (a scarring of the lung).
  • Lung cancer.
  • Mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining around the lungs and stomach).
  • Diffuse pleural thickening (a non-malignant disease affecting the lung lining).

Research has not determined any "safe" level of exposure to asbestos fibres. However, it is known that the more asbestos fibres that are inhaled the greater the risk to health.

The risk is also increased for smokers and brown and blue asbestos are known to be more dangerous than white. Asbestos related disease usually occurs only as a result of prolonged exposure to asbestos dust; an isolated accidental exposure of short duration is unlikely to result in the development of disease.

The diseases are irreversible and generally develop many years after exposure has occurred, typically between 15 to 30 years. Asbestos related diseases kill more people, typically around 2500 people per year in the UK, than any other single work-related cause.

Last Updated: 25 March 2021