Asbestos is the collective name for several naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals that can be separated into thin, durable threads. It was once widely used because of its properties: it is heat resistant, it withstands acids and other chemicals, and it is a good insulator. Although the use of asbestos has been banned in the EU, millions of cubic metres of materials containing asbestos are still in place in buildings. Building maintenance workers are at a high risk of coming into contact with asbestos when working on insulation in buildings and industrial installations such as pipes, roofs and walls. This e-fact aims to help building maintenance companies and workers become more aware of the risks of asbestos, and develop the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent exposure to hazardous asbestos fibres.
Asbestos is the collective name for several naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals that can be separated into thin, durable threads. It was once widely used because of its properties: it is heat resistant, withstands acids and other chemicals, is a good insulator, has a high strength and can be woven. The main forms are: chrysotile or white asbestos; crocidolite or blue asbestos; amosite, also known as gruenerite or brown asbestos; anthophyllite; actinolite.
Depending on the type of the fibres and the level and duration of exposure these health problems can develop into: asbestosis, a chronic lung disease that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damage; lung cancer; mesothelioma, a cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen; to non-malignant pleural lesions, known as pleural plaques.