Last Updated on 28th October 2020 by Kirsty Smithson
Homes in the UK that were built before the UK asbestos ban in November 1999 could very likely still contain asbestos.
Particularly those homes dating from before 1985, as asbestos was used extensively in house building up until that point, when only a partial asbestos ban was implemented.
The use of amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos) was banned in 1985, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the use of chrysotile (white asbestos) was also banned, meaning a complete ban on the import, manufacture and use of asbestos in the UK.
Chrysotile was the most common and widely used type of asbestos in UK construction, which is why older buildings constructed before 1999 will most likely contain the hazardous material.
Asbestos was a very popular building material in the construction of homes and buildings in the UK from around 1930 right through to the mid 1980’s.
Reasons why asbestos was used were mainly due to cost effectiveness (it was cheap!), availability, durability/strength and it’s excellent insulation and fire-resistant properties.
Asbestos is also resistant to water, chemicals and electricity. All these factors made asbestos a very popular building material within construction, which is why so much of it still exists in homes and commercial buildings today.
Wondering if your home that was constructed pre-1999 contains asbestos? Curious as to where abouts in your home asbestos may be located?
There are plenty of places within homes where asbestos may be lurking, so it’s always worth conducting a visual inspection (please don’t physically handle or touch any suspected asbestos containing materials).
Here are some of the common asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) that can usually be found in older homes:-
And below is a handy illustration that shows exactly where you are likely to find these asbestos materials in your home.
Not sure whether there’s any asbestos in your home? Or found a material you suspect may contain asbestos and want to know for certain? Then you can arrange for a professional Asbestos Surveyor to come and conduct an inspection and/or have asbestos testing carried out on the suspect material.
Asbestos testing in a laboratory is the only way to know for sure if a material contains asbestos.
You may well be worried that your home is one of the many UK homes that still contain asbestos.
However, please be assured that asbestos materials are only dangerous if they are damaged or disturbed, as this is when the harmful asbestos fibers are released into the atmosphere and can be inhaled, posing a serious risk to health.
Asbestos fibers may become damaged or disturbed if carrying out routine DIY, maintenance or renovation work in homes.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, providing that asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) are left in situ, are undisturbed and undamaged, then they are considered to pose no immediate risk to health and it’s safer to leave them as they are.
You should only become concerned about asbestos in your home if you plan on doing any kind of DIY or renovations which could cause potential damage to any asbestos containing materials.
This can even include tasks like decorating, hanging pictures or installing new light fittings as any of these simple tasks could potentially disturb any existing asbestos in homes.
If you suspect or know that your home contains asbestos materials, then as stated above, providing they are in good condition and are not likely to be disturbed, then they can be left alone where they are as they will not pose any risk to health.
You should periodically check these asbestos materials visually on a regular basis in order to monitor their condition, and will need to take action should their condition deteriorate.
Going forward, you should take precautions to ensure that any asbestos materials are not disturbed or damaged.
This means keeping activity to a minimum in any of those areas of your home where potentially harmful asbestos material may be present.
So avoid contacting, damaging or disturbing asbestos materials.
This includes drilling/hammering holes in walls, sanding or sawing.
If you plan on doing any extensive repairs or renovation that are likely to disturb asbestos, then you will have to use appropriately trained tradesmen who have up-to-date asbestos awareness training.
Depending on the nature of the work, the type of asbestos and its condition, it’s not always necessary to remove asbestos from your home.
Under some circumstances, certain low risk asbestos containing materials that are in good condition can be encapsulated, which basically means covering them up with a protective layer to prevent the ACM from being damaged and releasing dangerous fibers.
This can be in the form of a special paint, a spray foam or a hard board or sheet for example.
Asbestos encapsulation is much more cost effective than asbestos removal and also can be carried out with minimal disturbance.
Those asbestos materials in poor condition that can’t be encapsulated will need to be removed by a trained and competent person (non licensed asbestos removal), and may even require a licensed asbestos contractor.
As long as your tradesman/contractor is suitably trained in asbestos awareness, is competent and has experience of working with asbestos materials, then they should be ok to carry out non licensed asbestos removal or encapsulation.
Examples of non licensed asbestos work include:-
There are some types of non licensed work that need to be notified to the local enforcing authority or HSE, known as notifiable non-licensed work.
Working with more dangerous forms of asbestos will mean that the contractor will require an HSE license in order to carry out certain tasks in homes.
Examples of licensed asbestos work include:-
As many older homes in the UK still contain asbestos, there is a risk that homeowners may have have unknowingly been exposed to asbestos.
Anyone who thinks they are suffering from asbestos exposure symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, a persistent cough etc should visit their GP as soon as possible.
Doctors will be able to carry out tests and will take x-rays to help diagnose any asbestos related illness or disease.
Under most circumstances though, the risks of asbestos exposure are quite low as most building materials used in UK homes are considered to be relatively low risk, for example decorative coatings.
Risks to health are normally as a result of long term exposure to asbestos and are usually prevalent in people who have worked in the construction, engineering or manufacturing industries.
Spouses or family members have also been known to develop an asbestos related illness due to secondary asbestos exposure from their loved ones work clothing.
Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their properties, carrying out an asbestos survey in their building so as not to put employees at risk.
Whether you need an asbestos management survey, or a refurbishment/ demolition survey, contact us on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting https://www.armco.org.uk/
Finally, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/to book an asbestos awareness training course.
Published Mar 16, 2020