A new study released by the British Lung Foundation found 65% of UK homeowners had stated they would be unable to recognise the presence of asbestos in their own homes. Of further concern is the claim by 77%  of respondents that they had never received any information on how to identify and manage the deadly material.

The lack of asbestos awareness amongst the workforce, combined  with the deliberate ignoring or denial of the statistical evidence by asbestos product manufacturers, has been up until the latter decades of the 20th century, a major contributory cause of the continuing prevalence of the deadly asbestos-related diseases of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

As a result, asbestos compensation claims by the many thousands of asbestos disease sufferers and their spouses are predicted to continue for many decades to come in the 21st century. It is well known that long latency periods of up to 40 years or more from first exposure can elapse before asbestosis symptoms appear, diagnosis confirmed and compensation proceedings urgently commenced.

The British Lung Foundation, alongside the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and many other concerned organisations  are continuing initiatives to alert the both the country’s householders and workforce to the possible risks of carrying out DIY on asbestos-containing materials, still to be found hidden in the home environment, as well as at current work premises or former sites.

The British Lung Survey of 2,000 homeowners found 45% did not realise that asbestos had been extensively used as a building material right up until the 1970s -80s,  and still can be found in floor tiles, textured ceiling coatings and in the lining of boiler cupboards. Other danger spots include toilet cisterns, asbestos cement roofs and soffit boards.

The BLF estimates that there are probably around 14 million homes in the UK which were built when asbestos was being used as a building material.

Fortunately, asbestos is no longer actively used in the UK,  the greatest risk is now to personnel involved in asbestos demolition, or building repair and maintenance, as it is only when asbestos is disturbed, e.g. drilled or sanded, that the dangerous fibres are released into the air.

The Health and Safety Executive advises householders who suspect the possible presence of asbestos should not attempt to remove asbestos containing materials which are higher risk, such as sprayed coatings, insulation board or lagging and should immediately contact an asbestos removal contractor licensed by the HSE.