An Aberdeen sheltered housing manager has recently raised fears that staff, residents and visitors could have been put at risk by repeated exposure to asbestos. The information came to light after repairs to a laundry room revealed the presence of asbestos in the ceiling tiles. Remarkably the care manager believes this could be the third time she has been exposed to asbestos since 2018.
The news comes after another North east care home, also in the Aberdeen area invited bids from various firms to remove asbestos as part of their upgrade works to the home.
Whilst the use of asbestos is now banned in the UK, buildings constructed as late as the year 2000, may have been done so using asbestos containing materials.
What is asbestos and where is it found?
Asbestos is the term that is given to a group of minerals made of microscopic silcate fibres. When asbestos containing materials are disturbed the tiny fibres are released in a dust form which can then be breathed in. By breathing in these fibres, the minerals contained can cause damage to the lungs and can ultimately lead to developing 1 of the 4 main diseases caused by breathing in asbestos fibres:
- Non-malignant pleural diseases (more commonly known as pleural plaques)
- Asbestos related lung cancer
Before it was known how harmful the use of asbestos was, it was frequently used in building construction for insulation, flooring and it was even sprayed on ceilings and walls. Unfortunately, the symptoms of an asbestos-related disease takes many years to appear after exposure to asbestos. It is therefore possible that those individuals that were exposed to asbestos when it was most commonly used many years ago may only be experiencing some of the symptoms now.
Who is most at risk?
The most at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease are those who worked with and were exposed directly to asbestos for long periods of time at work. These may include:
However, as shown in the instances of the Aberdeen care home, anyone who comes into contact with disturbed asbestos fibres can be at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. It should be highlighted however that asbestos still present in buildings is not harmful provided it is left undisturbed. It is always recommended that removal and disposal of asbestos containing materials is carried out by a licensed contractor to minimise any such risks.
Hanover Scotland, who operates the Bridge of Dee Court care home in Aberdeen believes the asbestos exposure to be low risk and contained to a small area of the home. A full removal of the asbestos in the care home is planned.