Most British homes that were constructed before 1990 will include some form of asbestos. This building material was widely used by the construction industry because asbestos is fireproof, waterproof and a good insulator. It is also a highly durable substance when it has been
processed correctly. However, it was discovered that asbestos is also a carcinogen and contributes to a wide range of breathing problems. The use of all forms of asbestos is now banned in the United Kingdom.
Despite the fact that asbestos can no longer be used in construction, it can still be found in hundreds of thousands of homes across the country. Homeowners and building owners were given the responsibility for taking steps to remove any asbestos from individual buildings. Property owners are permitted to leave the asbestos in situ, although public building owners have a responsibility to reduce the risk to building users.
Because of low levels of awareness about the scale of historic asbestos use, many private homeowners do not even know that there are asbestos-containing materials situated within their homes. This
may mean that people are at risk without even realising it. It is worth noting that asbestos is only dangerous to humans when the fibres become airborne. Materials that contain asbestos therefore only pose a risk to people when they are damaged.
One of the reasons why it is important to know about asbestos in the home is because knowing where the asbestos is can allow homeowners to take steps to prevent the materials from becoming damaged. This is particularly important if the homeowner is planning any redesign, renovation or DIY projects.
Failing to take the correct precautions can lead to asbestos fibres being spread around the home. One of the most common ways for this to happen is for people to disturb asbestos whilst they are doing DIY or having home renovations conducted. Unsuspecting people can end up getting a lungful of harmful fibres without even realising that they have put themselves in harm’s way.
What is more, people who do not realise that they have released harmful asbestos fibres are likely to drag these fibres through their home on their clothes and shoes. This will spread the fibres to many different areas of the home.
Knowing where asbestos is will mean that you are able to take the correct precautions before you start major home renovations.
Many builders are trained in identifying asbestos, but sometimes it is impossible to recognise asbestos without full testing. It can be useful to have a specialist assessment before you begin doing major work, or else asbestos may be unintentionally disturbed. Not all builders are prepared to work with asbestos, and you may need to call in an external contractor to help you to deal with the contaminated materials. Your local council may be able to provide you with a list of contractors who are qualified to work with asbestos.
If the asbestos is not going to be disturbed by the renovation process, it may be much safer to leave it in position. Encapsulation techniques and other special processes can help to reduce the risks associated with most of these hazardous building materials. The techniques seal in the fibres to prevent them from becoming airborne as the building materials decay. For most people, it is actually safer to encapsulate or seal the asbestos and leave it in place, because attempting to remove the substance can distribute the asbestos fibres.
However, encapsulation cannot be performed on some materials, especially if the materials are already badly damaged. In these circumstances, the asbestos should be removed and safely disposed of by a trained professional. In order to remove asbestos, the removal team may seek to isolate the area where the asbestos is. In severe cases, they may also try to cordon off a safe exit route so that they are able to get the asbestos out of the building with very little risk of
cross-contamination. They should then use specialist cleaning techniques to remove as many fibres from the home as possible. It is not always possible to get all of the fibres out of the home.
Any asbestos which is removed from your home must be properly bagged and sealed to prevent the accidental escape of harmful fibres. Health and Safety Executive regulations normally require the products to be placed inside a red bag and then wrapped again in a second layer of sealed plastic. A hazardous waste warning must then be displayed on the bag to notify people that the sealed bag contains harmful asbestos products
If a large amount of asbestos needs to be transported away in a skip, the skip must be locked at all times to prevent people from accidentally accessing the contents. Asbestos can only be disposed of in landfill sites that accept asbestos products.