Asbestos is a substance that was commonly used during building construction and is present in many buildings today.
It was only banned from use in 1999 and asbestos can be still found in many locations at homes or in the workplace. Asbestos if fine if left undisturbed and usually poses no problems. However, extreme care must be taken to prevent the release of fibres as they can cause serious damage to your health and the health of those around you when inhaled.
Asbestos-related diseases are the number one cause of work-related deaths and recent research has show that this number is still likely to increase due to people being exposed at work.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fibre that forms in certain rocks. It has a number of properties, including its strength, its ability to absorb sound, has thermal properties and resistance to acid.
There are three common types of asbestos:
- crocodolite (blue asbestos)
- chrysolite (white asbestos)
- amosite (brown asbestos)
What are the dangers with Asbestos?
Asbestos fibres may be inhaled (breathed-in) through the nose or the mouth. The fibres pass into the lung and chest lining and may result in an asbestos-related disease, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and certain cancers. Unfortunately there is no cure for these diseases and often disease is seen many years after an individuals' initial exposure. There are currently approximately 3000 deaths per year within the United Kingdom from asbestos related diseases.
If material containing asbestos is in good condition and not damaged, there is not a significant risk of illness associated with exposure to it, in fact trying to deal with it may put you at greater risk.
Who is at risk?
People who may be at risk from asbestos-related diseases are those people using your building who may damage or disturb asbestos containing material.
Where will I find Asbestos?
Asbestos has been used in many materials and it is very difficult to determine whether a material contains asbestos purely by looking at it. A laboratory would confirm whether a material contains asbestos or not. Common locations of asbestos include:
- lagging around pipes/boilers used for insulation
- asbestos cement, such as corrugated roof panels, guttering, decorative plaster finishes
- insulation board used as wall partitions, fire doors, ceiling tiles
- sprayed coatings
Please note that asbestos was banned from being manufactured in the 1980s and it is therefore more common in buildings built before this date.