If undamaged, asbestos does not present a health risk. However, if it becomes chipped, or broken, asbestos can release a fine dust made up of tiny asbestos fibres. If someone breathes in the dust, the fibres can damage the lungs and trigger asbestosis.
The symptoms of asbestosis usually begin many years after the initial exposure. Most cases of asbestosis begin 15-20 years after exposure, although it can take as many as 40 years for symptoms to become apparent.
Health concerns regarding asbestos were raised as far back as 1898, but it was not until the 1970s that strict regulations were introduced to regulate the use of asbestos and limit an employee’s exposure to it.
The use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 and it is now also banned in all EU countries. However, asbestos is still widely used in the developing world.