Asbestos is a natural fibre that was widely used throughout the 1900s in many aspects of construction. It is now banned in the UK, but buildings constructed before 2000 may still have asbestos in them. Widely used for insulation, flooring and roofing, undisturbed asbestos poses very little risk – but, when disturbed and inhaled, it can pose a severe risk to health. This is why asbestos removal needs to be approached with caution and expertise.
The three main types of asbestos are blue (crocidolite), brown (amosite), and white (chrysotile).
Why is asbestos bad?
Asbestos is a carcinogen, which means a direct link has been identified between the substance and various forms of cancer in humans.
Even a relatively minor disturbance can cause thousands of little fibres to be released into the air and breathed into the lungs. Once there, these fibres can cause lung cancer, a condition called asbestosis, and other respiratory issues. They can also pose a risk to our digestive health.
No amount of asbestos exposure is safe. Buildings constructed using a large volume of asbestos need careful dismantling, but even a small amount needs expert attention.
What are the signs of having asbestos?
Identifying asbestos isn’t always easy, but there are some tell-tale signs to consider.
Homes and other buildings built before the year 2000 – and, in particular, prior to the 1980s – are relatively likely to contain some asbestos, either in the roof, the walls, or in the form of cladding or flooring.
Asbestos was frequently combined with cement in order to strengthen it, so any cement structures, sheets, cement fibre boards and other elements like old water tanks can pose a risk. While, embedded in the cement, asbestos poses a relatively low threat, any renovation work – or even just drilling into the wall – could dislodge the fibres and instantly put you at risk.
Vinyl flooring laid around the mid-1900s can be a source of asbestos. Many homes and commercial spaces have been modernised since then, so discovering asbestos tiles is less common, but it’s still a risk to be aware of.
Asbestos was a good insulator, as well as being naturally fire retardant, so it was frequently used to create artificial slate tiles and corrugated roofing (often found on old barns and other industrial structures, as well as old garages and sheds). Asbestos roofs – both tiled and corrugated – attract a lot of moss and lichen, which can be a strong giveaway. If in doubt, it’s worth getting in touch with us since the slightest disturbance can pose a health risk.
Asbestos insulation is relatively easy to identify, but, unless you’ve got experience in this area, any old insulation should be approached with caution – just in case. It’s often recognised by its fine fibres and a murky brown or beige colour. Asbestos may also be present in cardboard surrounding old pipes.
Ultimately, while there are ways of tracking down asbestos in older buildings, identifying it yourself is not worth the risk. Give us a call, and we can ensure any asbestos is identified, removed, and disposed of safely.
Asbestos removal is a very delicate and cautious procedure. Please do not attempt to remove any asbestos yourself as disturbing the material without the correct equipment and safety precautions is extremely dangerous.