The information here is provided as-is and is not a comprehensive guide.
We strongly suggest you do your own research to satisfy yourself that you are aware of the risks that Asbestos poses when Exploring.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous substance that was once commonly used in buildings in the UK and elsewhere. Asbestos occurs naturally in the environment and as such everyone gets a certain amount of exposure to it over their lifetime. However exposure to Asbestos in high concentrations has been proven to be very detrimental to health, and precautions should be taken to avoid exposure to asbestos wherever possible.
Asbestos is definitely one substance that is pays to be aware of and know at least something about as it is very likely something you will come into contact with when exploring.
What are the dangers?
Asbestos does not present an immediate threat. The harm from asbestos comes from its fibres which are very very fine and are easily inhaled deep inside your lungs where they remain. They are so fine that they cannot be expelled from the lungs in the normal way, and they remain where they are indefinitely. The cumulative effect of inhaling a large amount of asbestos fibres during your lifetime is thought to be a primary trigger in certain types of lung cancer.
Where will I find asbestos?
Relating to exploring, the most common places you will find asbestos is in electrical appliances/switch rooms, as insulation on pipes and boilers and as concrete-asbestos roofing material. It is safe to assume that most large buildings like hospitals, schools etc. built before the 1970's will contain asbestos in them somewhere, it was a very common building substance. However a lot of asbestos has been removed from such places since the 1980's when it's use was for the most part banned in the UK.
There are different types of asbestos and you'll quite often hear people say that one type is more dangerous than another. It is safer however to assume that all asbestos is harmful and to leave it well alone if you come across it. There are many articles on the internet if you want to do more detailed reading.
What can I do to protect myself?
The best advice is not to go anywhere that is likely to contain asbestos if you can absolutely avoid it. However, if you are going somewhere that you expect to come into contact with Asbestos, the very minimum you can do to protect yourself is to buy a P3 rated mask. A P3 rated mask has filters that are good enough to trap the asbestos fibres and prevent you breathing them in. It is unlikely you will come across anywhere with a high concentration of asbestos, but if you did the advice would be to leave well alone.
You may from time to time come across asbestos removal being carried out in a building. This is recogniseable as the rooms/areas that asbestos is being removed from will have been sealed up thoroughly with polythene and tape to create an air tight environment which is normally negatively pressured as well to prevent fibres escaping. If you come across asbestos removal in progress in a building it is best to leave this well alone and steer clear of those areas.