Asbestos symptoms and related diseases usually don't develop until years, often decades, after exposure.
Due to this is often difficult to pinpoint the exposure, or even know when that troublesome cough is actually something much more sinister.
Asbestos is the cause of over 4500 deaths annually, a figure that continues to rise.
If asbestos materials are disturbed, tiny fibres that are invisible to the eye are released which can become lodged in the lungs. These asbestos fibres can be debilitating, and can often have fatal consequences.
All types of asbestos are classed as carcinogens. A carcinogen is any substance that is directly involved in causing cancer.
There are a number of asbestos related diseases that mostly target the lungs.
If swallowed, asbestos can also cause cancer in the bowels.
Asbestos fibres can irritate the eyes, becoming lodged in the soft tissues.
While the effects of exposure may develop decades after the initial exposure, they can progress rapidly once they begin to appear.
Asbestosis is not always fatal, but mesothelioma (an asbestos related form of lung cancer) only carries a life expectancy of 6-24 months from diagnosis.
Smokers are also at increased risk. Smoking desensitises the lungs to smoke and particles, and the immune system reduces the white blood cells sent to clean up the lungs.
Avoiding asbestos exposure is the only way to reduce the risks, and this is especially important for those who carry out construction or maintenance work in buildings where asbestos is often present and at risk of being disturbed.