Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance found in the earth’s crust. It was mined around the world for hundreds of years, but many countries have now stopped mining and banned the use of it (including the UK) because of the health risks.
Asbestos is a harmful substance that continues to kill many people every year. It is the biggest occupational killer in the UK.
The microscopic asbestos fibres are invisible and are easily disturbed.
Breathing in any type of asbestos fibre can cause lung disease (such a cancer and mesothelioma).
Asbestosis is scarring of the lung that happens after heavy exposure to asbestos. It can cause shortness of breath and in severe cases it can be fatal.
Asbestos-related lung cancer is similar to lung cancer caused by smoking but it is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the thin, protective membrane (pleura) surrounding the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity, which is only caused by exposure to asbestos. It can take up to 50 years after exposure before symptoms develop. Mesothelioma is fatal in all cases, with death often occurring within months of diagnosis.