Many people have worries about asbestos, but undisturbed, asbestos usually poses no problems. However, care should be taken to prevent the release of fibres as they can cause serious damage to your health.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in a range of building materials to make them more rigid and fire resistant. Asbestos was used extensively as a building material from the 1950s through to the mid 1980s.
Some of areas in your home where you may find asbestos include:
- eaves, soffits, gutters and rainwater fall pipes
- garage and shed roofs
- linings for walls, ceilings and doors
- insulation panels in some storage heaters
- bath panels
- central heating flues
- floor tiles
Asbestos fibres are present in the environment in Great Britain so people are exposed to very low levels of fibres. However, a key factor in the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is the total number of fibres breathed in. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels can increase your chances of getting an asbestos-related disease. The symptoms of these diseases often do not appear for 20 – 30 years after exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos in your home – what to do?
It can be hard to visually identify asbestos, but if you suspect that you are living with it:
- Leave the asbestos alone as it’s safe unless it’s damaged or disturbed
- never drill .sand or saw asbestos materials
- always seek professional advice before removing suspected asbestos materials
- do not attempt to remove asbestos lagging, spray coatings or insulation board yourself – these materials can only be safely removed by a licensed contractor
- removal of non-licensable asbestos material, such as asbestos cement or asbestos vinyl floor tiles, should be carried out by a competent contractor whose employees have been trained to work with such material
- sometimes it will be necessary to take a sample, for example to identify the type of asbestos – only employ a suitably trained, competent person to sample or do a survey of the premises
Asbestos waste may only be disposed of at a site that has been licensed to accept it. You may be able to arrange to have it collected by a contractor who is licensed to do so, and has arranged a consignment note, or, if you are a private householder not working for gain, you may make arrangements with one of the licensed hazardous waste disposal sites.