Friday, 2 July 2010

Action Mesothelioma Day

Today, the first Friday in July, is Action Mesothelioma Day.  The theme of this year's campaign by the British Lung Foundation is "Be asbestos aware".  Today's blog is my contribution to raising awareness of the risks associated with asbestos and highlighting some key facts about mesothelioma, the cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust.

Key Statistics

Mesothelioma is a malignant cancer which develops between 15 and 60 years after exposure to asbestos in the two-layered membrane surrounding the lungs and lining the inside of the rib cage (pleura)

• Mesothelioma kills one person every five hours in the UK, yet only six per cent of people are aware of the disease

• The rising number of deaths from the condition is linked to the use of asbestos in the building industry up until the mid 1980s

• The number of mesothelioma deaths each year in the UK has increased from 153 in 1968 to around 2000 today

• Experts predict that we will face a mesothelioma epidemic between 2011 and 2015 as the death toll rises

• It is estimated that between 2006 and 2020, 30,000 people in the UK will die from mesothelioma, and that 90,000 will have died by 2050

Do you DIY?

Many people believe that asbestos is a thing of the past and are not aware that they could still be at risk today. The British Lung Foundation’s national campaign Be Asbestos Aware focuses on the risks to homeowners who do DIY in their properties.  If these were built between the 1950s and mid 1980s, they may contain asbestos. Astonishingly, asbestos was even being used in some cement products up until 1999.  So - don't take risks!

Top Tips

  1. Asbestos containing materials in good condition are not a health risk and should be left alone
  2. Never sand, drill or saw objects which may contain asbestos such as textured ceiling coatings, floor tiles or asbestos cement roofs
  3. Common places where asbestos could be found include floor tiles, toilet cisterns, textured ceiling coatings, asbestos cement roofs, soffit boards and linings of boiler cupboards
  4. Always seek professional advice from your local authority or an accredited asbestos removal company before thinking of removing asbestos materials
  5. Always make sure you have the correct personal protection equipment including:
    • Properly fitted mask to the standards EN149 (type FFP3) or EN1827 (type FMP3)
    • Overalls and boot covers – most home improvement stores will stock these
  6. If you are doing DIY in your own clothes, remove them carefully to avoid excess dust and wash straight away, separately from other clothing, in a washing machine
  7. Make sure you use a mask whilst dealing with them
  8. If you are working with asbestos materials always dampen down the surface to avoid producing dust
  9. Don’t smoke, eat or drink in the work area
  10. If you disturb asbestos do not use a domestic vacuum cleaner as dust may pass through the filter – hire a special (Class H) industrial vacuum cleaner that complies with British Standards – Look up ‘asbestos safety equipment hire’ on the internet for where to find one
  11. Do not put asbestos waste in the dustbin – seek advice from the council about how to safely dispose of it
Steve's exposure to asbestos was as a student in the early 1970s whilst demolishing walls and ceilings to create a large open plan studio at his place of study. That unprotected experience earned him a bit of money for Christmas but will cost him his life.  Please don't let that happen to you or your loved ones.

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