Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for about 150 years on a large commercial scale. It is versatile, plentiful and ideal as a fire proofing and insulation material. Unfortunately it can also be deadly.
Asbestos related diseases (mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer) are thought to kill at least 3,000 people a year, with this figure expected to rise to 10,000 by 2011. But those dying during that period will have already inhaled a fatal dose of asbestos fibres. It can take anywhere from 15 to 60 years after first exposure before the development of these fatal diseases, and these deaths arise from exposures many years ago when asbestos was less well controlled, and was in much wider use than today.