Asbestos myths and the truth

Asbestos myths and the truth

You will have heard about and read many myths concerning asbestos.   People just don’t seem to realise the dangers, and still consider it to be quite harmless.  In this article we want to share with you some of these asbestos myths and the truth.

Certain myths that exist are that asbestos is harmless in small amounts, if you don’t work with asbestos then you’re not at risk, that asbestos is easy to recognize just by looking at it, asbestos related diseases are contagious, symptoms of asbestos related diseases manifest quickly after exposure, white asbestos isn’t dangerous, you’re safe to remove asbestos just wearing a mask and that mesothelioma cancer is only caused by exposure to asbestos.

This is all incorrect information.

The history of asbestos

Asbestos may be considered as dangerous nowadays, but once upon a time asbestos was hailed as a hugely beneficial material.

The benefits of asbestos are that it’s strong, durable, heat resistant and lightweight.

Fibers can also be easily mixed with other materials to form many different shapes, and therefore asbestos has many uses.

Asbestos was used a lot in manufacturing and building from the 19th century onwards because it was so readily available, due to it being a natural mineral, and also very affordable.

Asbestos was particularly popular within construction and could be found in lots of building materials such as floor tiles, roofs, textured coatings, boilers, pipe insulation and so on.

As such, many buildings that exist today will still contain asbestos.  Infact, any building erected before the year 2000 is very likely to contain asbestos materials in some form.

Asbestos myths and the truth - asbestos fibers

So what is the truth about asbestos?

As there are a lot of myths that circulate about asbestos, we thought we’d let you know about the facts, what you need to know and how you can stay safe.

So, think that asbestos is pretty harmless in small amounts?  Think again!  Even if you inhale a very small amount of asbestos fibers, it can still be very dangerous.  The fact is though, there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure.

However, the more you are exposed to it, the greater the risk becomes.

Think that you’re not at any risk if you don’t work with asbestos?  Then you’re wrong!  Anyone can be exposed to asbestos as it’s everywhere, in offices, public buildings and even in some of our homes.

Yes, you are more at risk if you work in an industry where you are likely to be exposed to asbestos, such as building or engineering, but you can still be exposed without realising it, even if you don’t work in industry or are in direct contact with asbestos.

For example, families of asbestos workers can come into contact with asbestos fibers on their clothes.

Think you could recognize asbestos just by looking at it?  As asbestos was so commonly used in building and manufacturing, and the fact that it is used in 1000’s of consumer products, the only way to identify asbestos for sure is by taking samples and testing them in a laboratory.

More myths debunked

As for the myth that asbestos related diseases are contagious – they are not!  But asbestos fibers can and have been transferred via the clothing of asbestos workers to their relatives without them realising, resulting in what is known as secondary exposure.

And as for the myth that symptoms of asbestos related diseases appear quickly following exposure, this again isn’t true.   It can take many years for any symptoms to show.  Infact, it can take as long as 40 years following exposure for any symptoms to be detected.

Many people think that white asbestos isn’t dangerous, but this simply isn’t correct.  Yes, the blue and brown forms of asbestos are considered to be the most potent, but exposure to white asbestos is still dangerous and harmful if inhaled.

And if you think you’re safe to remove asbestos just using an ordinary flimsy paper face mask then you’re also wrong!

The task of removing asbestos is extremely dangerous and needs specialist equipment and adequate training.  You will also need a specialist mask for asbestos removal.

And finally, contrary to popular belief, mesothelioma isn’t just caused by exposure to asbestos, although the risks are indeed greatly increased by exposure to asbestos.


Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting

Alternatively, to book onto one of our asbestos training courses, please call 0161 761 4424 or visit 



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