Asbestos is a silicate mineral that is mined from the ground as an ore and then mechanically broken down to extract the loose asbestos fibres from the ore. The three main types of asbestos used in many building materials and other products are Amosite (brown), Chrysotile (white) and Crocidolite (blue) asbestos.
Asbestos was used in over 3000 different building materials and products.
The main types of materials asbestos can be found in include:
Sprayed coatings used as thermal and anti-condensation insulation on the undersides of roofs and to steelwork and as acoustic insulation in theatres, halls etc. Usually contain 55 – 85% asbestos. Both Crocidolite and Amosite were used. Sprayed coatings are generally very friable and can easily release fibres into the air when disturbed or as the bonding matrix degrades over time.
Thermal insulation used on pipes, boilers, calorifiers etc. Asbestos content varies from 6 – 85% and all types of asbestos have been used. Often will be well encapsulated but any damaged or unencapsulated areas will have a high potential to release fibres.
Asbestos insulation boards (AIB) and millboard used for general heat insulation, acoustic insulation and fire protection and as a general building board. Found in service ducts, risers, firebreaks, infill panels, partitions, ceilings and ceiling tiles, roof underlay, wall linings, external canopies and soffits etc. These contain 15 – 40% asbestos and all types of asbestos have been used. AIB and millboard can be readily broken and abraded, releasing significant quantities of asbestos fibres.
Asbestos cement products used as roofing, wall cladding, shuttering, soffits, bath panels, ceiling panels, fire protection, water tanks, flue pipes etc. Typically contains 10-25% asbestos. Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos found in cement although Amosite and Crocidolite have also been used. Likely to release fibres if abraded, sawn or drilled. Generally releases low levels of fibres.
Ropes, cloths, gaskets and asbestos paper are usually high in asbestos content, normally up to 100%. All types of asbestos have been used. Likely to release fibres if abraded, torn or cut.
Textured coatings, e.g. Artex may contain small amounts of asbestos, typically 3-5% Chrysotile. Generally very low fibre release although the material should not be drilled or broken.
Bitumen products used as roofing felts, gutter linings and flashings, damp proof courses, bitumen adhesives etc. Usually contain approximately 8% asbestos. Fibre release is unlikely during normal use.
Reinforced plastics used as vinyl floor tiles, vinyl lays, wall panels, toilet cisterns, window seals, laboratory worktops etc. These contain 7-25% asbestos, which is usually Chrysotile. Fibre release is unlikely during normal use. Note: Vinyl floor lays may have an asbestos paper backing, typically approximately 100% Chrysotile.
Asbestos was also used in various other products such as cigarettes and even as fake snow! Pure white asbestos was being sprinkled over Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz in the scene where she woke up in the poppy field!
Asbestos is dangerous when the asbestos fibres are released from the building material into the air. Once airborne they are breathed in and due to the very small fibre size they pass deep down into the inner lungs. The bodies defence cells cannot get rid of the asbestos fibres and they build up and cause scarring in the lungs. Over time this scarring can reduce the lung’s ability to absorb oxygen from the air and lead to difficulty breathing and cardiovascular problems, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. The fibres also increase the risk of lung cancer and also the asbestos specific cancer of the lung lining, mesothelioma. This is a particularly nasty and aggressive cancer and prognosis is usually very poor from time of diagnosis, usually with only months given to live.
Not in the UK. The import and use af all asbestos and asbestos materials was banned in the UK in 1999. Properties built in 2000 or after should therefore have no asbestos containing materials (ACMs) within the building
In a residential property you do not have a legal obligation to have an asbestos survey carried out, however more and more people are choosing to have a survey due to the dangerous nature of the material and the number of materials asbestos was used in. It is certainly worth having a survey carried out on a property you are buying, apart from the dangers asbestos removal often costs thousands so it is worth knowing what materials are in a property prior to purchase.
For owners or managers of commercial properties (including let properties) the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 places a duty on those responsible for health and safety to identify, make safe and manage asbestos within the workplace.
The key requirements for employers are to:
For the above to be effectively carried out you will need to:
This duty is relevant to all owners, employers and managers of non-domestic properties, including the communal areas and corridors/stairwells of shared residential premises.
Yes! We offer both classroom based level 1 asbestos awareness courses and also CAT B training (working with and removing non-licenced asbestos containing materials). You can also do online training, amongst other health and safety and business courses on our training portal www.online-courses.org.uk