If you own a house that was built during the 20th century there is a high probability that it will contain asbestos. It was used in almost all aspects of the building trade but was primarily utilized as an insulator. Asbestos has an exceedingly high melting point meaning that it is extremely resistant to heat. It also has the ability to act as a insulator and as such can be found wrapped around old boilers or pipes, it is even found in the form of asbestos insulation boards. However during the course of the century experts linked exposure to asbestos to a number of detrimental health issues, mainly chronic lung conditions. This lead to thousands of industrial workers who have worked with asbestos falling ill and billions of dollars being paid out to workers in the form of asbestos compensation claims.
With asbestos being recognized as a ‘silent killer’ many governments have implemented strict regulations to control its use and import. In the United Kingdom legislation enforced in 2012 states that it is the owner’s responsibility to manage any building that contains asbestos, and to undertake any repairs to guarantee the safety of the dwellers or general public. In a few cases local authorities have been held liable as they have failed to provide safe public buildings such as schools and colleges with staff.
As developed counties around the globe aim for a greener cleaner planet, measures are being taken to improve current building energy efficiency! With these plans in action a number of older houses are being renovated and in some cases demolished so that they will meet the freshly implemented standards. Experts have indicated that we may bear witness to a 3rd wave of people being affected by asbestos unless the appropriate safety measures are taken whilst renovations are being carried out. The workers who mined asbestos have been considered as the first wave of sufferers and the construction workers who utilised the material were considered the 2nd.
As I mentioned earlier huge amounts of money have been paid out to asbestos victims seeking compensation. The aggressive nature of a few of the asbestos related illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis can put a huge strain on people lives and in some cases are known to be fatal. Due to this asbestosis compensation claims often run into the hundreds of thousands and potentially millions. This has forced a number of companies into liquidation leaving thousands of workers either jobless or unable to claim. To remedy this there have been a number of funds set up by governments around the globe specifically for the industrial workers. Although the total amount paid out since the first asbestos claim is unknown, experts predict it to be into the billions.
Whilst asbestos is either banned or severely regulated within most developed countries I am unable to say that there is no future for asbestos. This is due to developing nations such as Russia (who happen to be the largest supplier of asbestos), India and China still using the hazardous material prevalently in the majority of suburban buildings. Asbestos still remains to be a cost effective building material which exceeds as an insulator. However one must ask the question as to when does using a material for its cheapness outweigh the safety of human life?