What asbestos has taught us about managing risk

The UK’s asbestos industry ended in August 1999 after being used heavily from the 1950s to 1970s.

Over 20 years on, we’re starting to see the delayed latency period taking effect as asbestos deaths have peaked over the last year or so, as historically the substance was widely used industrially, commercially and residentially.

Asbestos was unknowingly dangerous to public health. Fibres that are too large to be broken down by the body are breathed in and lodged in our lungs, causing many adverse health effects. Inhaling asbestos is directly linked to multiple diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

These diseases often have high fatality rates and because the have a delayed latency period they don’t usually obviously develop until many years following exposure. Even though asbestos was banned in the UK two decades ago, the dangerous carcinogen lingers. It is still the leading cause of occupational death, with 5,500 deaths in 2020.

A recent report revealed that although there have been significant efforts across the board to have the material removed to avoid risking life, there are an estimated six million tons of asbestos remaining inside around 1.5 million buildings. Some of these buildings include schools and hospitals built before August 1999.

In this informative article for Property Investor Today, writer Lucy Victoria Desai explores the biggest asbestos failings and what has been learnt from them.