My daughter has recently been revising for her biology GCSE and asked me if I knew how much air we breathe. I told her I didn’t and she went on to explain that every breath is likely to contain 500ml and that on average we breath in 6 litres of air every minute.
It got me thinking. Whilst we no longer promote the idea that one asbestos fibre could kill you and recognise that this represents the fact that we do not know how much asbestos is required to cause mesothelioma, it is still accepted that the more fibres you breathe in the greater the risks to your health.
So, if you work unknowingly with asbestos insulating board, it is possible that you could inhale between 5 – 20 fibres in every millilitre or between 2,500 and 10,000 every breath or 30,000 – 120,000 fibres every minute.
This isn’t a risk I would be happy to take.
Every year thousands of workers die from illness resulting from work related exposure to asbestos, the latest figures released by HSE are that there were 2,523 mesothelioma deaths in 2017, an increase from previous years.
Whilst a lot of these victims died as a result of exposures many years ago, asbestos containing materials (ACMs) remain in place in many buildings and it is essential that builders, contractors and maintenance workers are therefore “asbestos aware” to prevent them coming into contact with them.
Employers and those in charge of buildings also have responsibilities, including determining whether there are any ACMs on their premises and making this information available to workers.
The number of asbestos related deaths will begin to decline soon, but this won’t be a sudden stop, instead we can expect to see reports from HSE continue for many years and the death toll to dwindle from the thousands, through hundreds, tens to single figures. Unfortunately I don’t expect to see it during my working life.
THSP Risk Management offers UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) accredited courses, suitable for all types of businesses and their employees. Contact us today on 03456 122 144 for more information on asbestos training, or for details on all our available training courses visit www.thsp.co.uk