Hundreds of thousands of homes in the United Kingdom contain asbestos. This substance was widely used by the building industry for the majority of the twentieth century, because the material offered a wide range of favourable properties.
The majority of homes that were built before the 1990’s will contain at least 1 component that has been made with asbestos. With this in mind, you should know what to do if your home is found to contain asbestos products.
All 6 types of asbestos are considered to be potentially harmful to human health, although some are considered to be more dangerous than others. The most dangerous types were phased out of use in the United Kingdom during the 1980’s, however other types of asbestos continued to be legal for some time after that. Having asbestos in your home does not always pose an immediate danger to your health, because it is not dangerous when it is “sealed” into a building material.
However, the asbestos can become harmful if the building material is damaged and the asbestos fibres become airborne. Once airborne, the fibres can be inhaled and may get stuck in the respiratory system. These fibres can scratch and irritate the respiratory system, which can lead to breathing difficulties and some forms of lung cancer. They may also act as a skin irritant. If an asbestos product remains undamaged, it should not pose a threat to people.
If your home was built before 1990, you should take steps to identify where asbestos might be in the property. If your house was built after this date, it may still contain some asbestos but it will be far less prevalent. Knowing where the asbestos is will help you to minimise
the risk to your family. Unless you have had formal asbestos training, it is best to invite a specialist asbestos surveyor to assess your home. It is impossible to positively identify all asbestos with the naked eye, so the surveyor may need to take samples from some building materials.
Once asbestos is identified in your home, you will need to create a risk management plan. If you have used the services of an asbestos specialist, they will normally help you to decide what to do about the asbestos. If the asbestos is undamaged, they will normally recommend that you keep it in situ and use an additional stabilising solution to reduce the chances of the asbestos fibres becoming airborne.
Leaving asbestos in place means that replacement materials will not be required at that stage. Asbestos which has been left in place should be inspected regularly so that any damage will be spotted as soon as possible. Depending on the level of damage, further sealing may be possible; however extraction may be necessary. In general, it is safer to leave undamaged asbestos in place, because the removal process can release asbestos fibres into the air.
If the asbestos is left in situ, it is important that steps are taken to reduce the risk of damage. Whenever possible, leave the asbestos alone or reducing access to the area. Limit the amount of time that children can spend in the area, because this they are more likely to damage the asbestos by accident. If you are planning on doing any DIY or construction work in an area where asbestos is present, make sure that you factor this into your risk assessment. If the work is likely
to impact on the asbestos, you should speak to the asbestos specialist before you begin. Any repair work that is done on asbestos-containing materials should only be carried out by an asbestos specialist. Never use a vacuum cleaner to tidy an area where loose asbestos fibres may be present, because it is likely that this will lead to more fibres becoming airborne.
If the asbestos cannot be safely covered or encapsulated, you should take steps to remove it from your phone. Removal should be done by a professional, because removal increases the chances that fibres will be spread around the building. Failing to properly remove
building materials that contain asbestos may lead to asbestos being accidentally introduced to other areas. An asbestos specialist will take the time to contain the asbestos before removal and then thoroughly clean any areas that the fibres may have spread to.
The disposal of asbestos is controlled by local councils and differs depending on which council area your home is in. If you need to dispose of any asbestos that has been removed from your home, you will need to get in contact with your local council to find out what
their policy is on the disposal of asbestos. You must comply with local regulations or you could face a fine for the incorrect disposal of a hazardous material.