Builders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and gas fitters are putting themselves at risk of a deadly cancer because they don't know enough about asbestos, says a report.
The study by the British Lung Foundation said there was alarming ignorance among workers about the dangers of asbestos. Asbestos causes a chest cancer called mesothelioma, which kills one person every five hours in the UK, according to the study.
AdvertisementThe report said that 20 tradesmen die of asbestos-related diseases every week and that makes asbestos exposure Britain's biggest workplace killer now.
Mesothelioma develops between 15 and 60 years after exposure to asbestos and the report predicts that the UK will soon face an epidemic of the disease "as cases are set to peak between 2011 and 2015."
The British Lung Foundation surveyed 400 workers of whom only 12.5% knew that exposure to asbestos could be fatal.
"One in 10 of those questioned revealed they had been pressured to continue working even if they suspected that asbestos was present, while one in four mistakenly assumed that some levels of asbestos were safe," according to the researchers.
Most workers in the survey admitted they rarely asked if a site had been checked for asbestos before they started a job.
Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "It is a great worry that those most at risk of this cruel cancer know so little about a killer that could be lurking in the building they're working on."
"We want mesothelioma to become a disease of the past, but until people put their health first, become asbestos-aware and protect themselves against asbestos, that goal can't be reached," she said.