Why Asbestos Was Banned in UK Construction

Asbestos was fully banned in the UK construction industry in 1999 and was the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Any building built before 2000 could potentially contain it. Here is one of the main asbestos-related illnesses and who could be affected.  


With the UK being one of the targeted regions for highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, it’s important to know where the disease can come from.  

This disease is caused mainly due to the permittance of asbestos use long after other countries had struck a law against using the mineral.  

Global shipbuilding used multiple different asbestos related products to insulate the vessels, including those used in the British Armed Forces. Back in the 1980s it was considered an ideal material to insulate with and would be used in walls, floors, ceilings and even engine and boiler rooms.  

Some of these rooms were used for sleeping in, which meant occupants would be exposed for long periods of time and could have inhaled airborne asbestos fibres.  

Most of the UK residents who die from the disease are men aged over 65, however some younger people have been diagnosed due to second-hand exposure and because of indirect contact with asbestos materials.  

Women are also exposed to asbestos indirectly due to living in areas near asbestos factories or having contact with people who have worked with asbestos.  

Why was asbestos used? 

Obviously looking back now, using asbestos was a damaging material for society and has caused more trouble than good. But before the issues surrounding asbestos were known, it was a useful building material due to it being cheap, strong, widely available and great at insulating buildings and ship vessels.  

It was also fire and heat resistant so would offer some protection against the spreading of fires if one were to break out, and could also absorb sound better, which was favourable amongst terraced housing. At its peak it was used in over 3000 products, including mattresses and even cement. 

Who is at risk? 

People who have worked in the shipbuilding industry prior to 1980 and have served aboard a ship that contains asbestos are at more risk of developing asbestos exposure related mesothelioma. When a ship is repaired or maintained, or even retro-fitted, there is a risk of the asbestos fibres becoming airborne which then causes the chance of developing an asbestos-related disease.  

Construction workers in the UK are also a high-risk group, mainly because the asbestos use was so prevalent for so long in older buildings and residences. Structures built or renovated before the 2000s are likely to contain asbestos, so when undergoing maintenance or refurbishments on these types of buildings extra care should be taken.  

Other likely occupation groups that could be exposed to asbestos are: 

  • Plasterers 
  • Roofing Contractors 
  • Demolition teams 
  • Painters 
  • HVAC Engineers 
  • Pipe Fitters 
  • Teachers 
  • Maintenance workers 
  • Carpenters 
  • Joiners 
  • Plumbers 
  • Boilermakers 
  • Electricians  

Essentially, anyone who has prolonged exposure to a building erected or refurbished before 2000s in the UK could potentially be exposed to asbestos. If you are concerned it is important to ask your manager or owner of the building to provide background information, or if this isn’t known, to have the building surveyed for any evidence of possible asbestos. 

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos and would like to make a claim due to an illness that isn’t your fault, contact a solicitor and inform them of your situation. 

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