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4 April 2023 | Comment | Article by Angharad Jones

Global Asbestos Awareness Week: Low level asbestos exposure

The UK saw a total ban on the use of asbestos in 1999. However, asbestos can still be found in many products and buildings today. Many people can still be exposed to asbestos at a lower level, while not being aware they are being exposed, or the risk of being exposed.

Sarah Morgan (Mesothelioma UK) and Angharad Jones (Hugh James)

Historically, claims have been bought on behalf of those who suffered high levels of asbestos exposure as a result of asbestos materials being extensively used in a wide range of industries, particularly the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Materials such as asbestos insulation boards, ceiling tiles and pipe lagging were among the most common.

However, in recent years more individuals are being diagnosed with asbestos related conditions following exposure to lower levels of asbestos which has led to a significant increase in civil compensation claims because of low level asbestos exposure.

Low level asbestos exposure

Individuals who have experienced low level asbestos exposure may have been exposed to asbestos on an infrequent basis, or for a short period of time. The exposure to asbestos may also be indirect, such as maintenance work being conducted on asbestos materials disturbing the asbestos, releasing dust and fibres into the air.

For example, many commercial buildings built before 2000 are likely to have been constructed using asbestos materials, including asbestos ceiling tiles, and corrugated asbestos roofing. The same can also be said for schools and hospitals, particularly those built pre-1980.

Asbestos materials can degrade over time, and where these materials have deteriorated, asbestos dust and fibres can be released into the air causing individuals to unknowingly breathe these fibres in.

Where work is being carried out, for example with walls being knocked down, asbestos materials are disturbed, releasing asbestos dust and fibres into the environment for people to inhale if they are in close proximity to these works.


Asbestos fibres are not only present in buildings, but have also been discovered in cosmetic talc products.

Talc and asbestos are both naturally occurring minerals, but with different crystal compositions. Unlike talc, asbestos is a carcinogen. Both minerals are often mined in close proximity to each other, causing contamination between the two products, causing significant issues for the present-day consumer.

Products such as talcum powder and other powdered talc cosmetics such as makeup have been found to contain traces of asbestos fibres. However, companies continue to sell these products to unknowing individuals across the world.

The use of talc can pose serious threats to an individual’s health. If the asbestos fibres in the contaminated talc product are inhaled or ingested, this can lead to the development of serious asbestos-related diseases such as Mesothelioma.

There is a long latency period between exposure and diagnosis, with symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions presenting themselves between 10 – 40 years later.

It is important to highlight these issues and raise awareness of the consequences of asbestos exposure amongst individuals of all ages and occupations. Asbestos may have been banned in the UK, but it is still present in a lot of environments. It is essential people know how to protect themselves, and others, from asbestos fibres.

If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with an asbestos related condition, then you may be able to make a claim. If you would like to discuss making a potential claim, then please contact a member of the specialist Asbestos team at Hugh James on 02920 391 100.

Author bio

Angharad Jones

Senior Associate

Angharad is a Senior Associate in the Industrial Disease department and has over three years of experience in dealing with asbestos related disease claims. She acts for patients suffering from asbestos related diseases including asbestosis, pleural thickening and mesothelioma, and also specialises in claims for silicosis.

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