A new survey has highlighted the need for Britons to improve their awareness of asbestos – a building material that was banned in the UK in 1999 after scientists discovered its link to a number of lung diseases, including cancer.
The substance was widely used after the end of World War II in 1945 as it has heat and fire-resistant properties, and is thought to have been used in nearly 14 million homes.
It needs to be handled carefully, as exposure is now known to cause mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs.
However, a survey by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) has revealed that 47 per cent of homeowners who do DIY in their properties – and may therefore come into contact with asbestos – do not realise it was used as recently as the 1990s.
The poll of 2,000 homeowners found that 65 per cent were not confident at identifying asbestos-containing materials in the home, such as floor tiles, toilet cisterns, textured ceiling coatings and boiler cupboard linings.
Just 29 per cent of people would check for the presence of asbestos before embarking upon DIY projects and 11 per cent even admitted that they would try to dispose of any asbestos themselves.
The BLF is urging people to become more asbestos aware as part of its annual Action Mesothelioma Day, as having the correct knowledge could help to prevent the disease.
One person dies from mesothelioma every five hours in the UK, according to Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation.
“Despite such a devastating illness, the general public knows very little about mesothelioma,” she revealed.
“Our survey has highlighted that nearly half of all homeowners do not know that asbestos was actually used as a building material and could be in their homes today – in light of this there’s definitely more work that needs to be done to ensure people are asbestos aware.”
Jessica Harris, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Exposure to asbestos is a major cause of several lung diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you are concerned about asbestos in your home, get professional help to remove it rather than doing it yourself.”