17% of window fabricators face asbestos each week, new research finds

New research has found that 17% of UK window fabricators are exposed to asbestos every week, and the same proportion has had symptoms of an asbestos-related disease, or know a colleague who has. Published on Mesothelioma Awareness Day (today, 26 September) the research from ElectricalDirect aims to highlight the dangers of asbestos.

The study found that 42% of window fabricators have come across asbestos – the fibre-like material once used for insulation – in their working lives. Tradespeople are amongst the most at-risk workers of asbestos-related diseases. Three in five (60%) find it every year, over a third (35%) encounter it every month, and one in 12 (8%) come face-to-face with asbestos every day.

The trades that are most likely to encounter asbestos are detailed in the chart below:

ElectricalDirect’s research also found that the majority of UK tradespeople are unaware of the symptoms of asbestos-related disease. When asked to identify the signs of asbestosis, almost two-thirds (64%) failed to select a persistent cough, and over half (55%) didn’t pick out shortness of breath.

According to Dr Rhianna McClymont, lead GP at the digital healthcare provider Livi, asbestosis causes a range of symptoms, including:
• Persistent cough
• Shortness of breath
• Wheezing
• Pain in the chest or shoulder
• Tiredness, and
• Swollen or ‘clubbed’ fingertips.

What is abestosis?
“Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by breathing in large amounts of asbestos dust for a long time,” said Dr McClymont. “The asbestos gets lodged in the lungs causing scarring around the air sacs (alveoli), which means oxygen can’t reach the bloodstream easily. The scarring leads to the lungs hardening, making it more difficult to breathe because the lungs cannot hold as much air as they used to.”

What causes it?
“The condition is caused by long-term exposure to asbestos, a material used in the past for cement, insulation, car parts and some roof and floor tiles. The fibres in asbestos break down into little pieces when they’re damaged, released into the air and then breathed in. These fibres get stuck in the lungs and, over a long time, can cause permanent lung damage.”

Dominick Sandford, managing director of ElectricalDirect, said: “Despite being banned in the UK in 1999, asbestos is a still a real issue in the industry, and it’s awful that so many tradespeople die from related diseases every year. Some people might not experience symptoms for decades after their exposure to the material, so it’s important that individuals remain vigilant, and see a doctor immediately if they spot any signs.”

To read ElectricalDirect’s full Asbestos and the Trades: 2022 report, including what to do if you encounter asbestos at work, and the treatment options for those who spot symptoms, visit electricaldirect.co.uk/blog/asbestos-and-the-trades-2022.