How To Spot Asbestos

Asbestos, once widely used in the UK for its heat-resistant properties, now poses a significant health risk in older buildings. Identifying this material is crucial for ensuring safety, particularly in structures built before the late 20th century.

For experts at Armco, specialists in asbestos surveys and removal, the ability to detect asbestos accurately is vital. This knowledge protects not just the workers who handle renovations and demolitions but also the public who occupy these buildings.

In the UK, the prevalence of asbestos in historical constructions is a legacy issue. Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can be found in various forms, such as insulation, roofing tiles, and floor tiles. Recognising these materials is essential for managing their safe removal or containment.

However, visual identification can be challenging, as asbestos fibres are often mixed with other materials, making it difficult to identify without close inspection or laboratory analysis.

Understanding Asbestos

Asbestos is a collective term for six naturally occurring silicate minerals, all known for their long, thin fibrous crystals. These fibres are microscopic and can easily become airborne, leading to serious health concerns upon inhalation.

The most common types of asbestos found in British buildings include chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), and crocidolite (blue asbestos). Each type has been used in different building materials and requires specific attention during asbestos surveys.

ACMs were extensively used in the UK for their durability and resistance to heat, electrical, and chemical damage. However, the hidden danger of these fibres is that they can cause severe lung diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Therefore, understanding the various applications and appearances of asbestos in buildings is a crucial first step in asbestos management. This knowledge not only aids in identifying potential ACMs but also underpins the importance of seeking professional advice for handling them.

Visual Identification of Asbestos

Spotting asbestos in a building can be challenging, as it often resembles other materials. Asbestos fibres were commonly mixed with cement or woven into fabrics, making them difficult to identify without specialised knowledge.

ACMs can appear in various textures and colours, depending on their type and how they’ve been used. For instance, insulation containing asbestos might look fluffy and soft, while asbestos cement can appear hard and rigid.

However, visual identification alone is not reliable for confirming the presence of asbestos. Many materials that look similar to asbestos do not contain it, and vice versa. This uncertainty poses a risk not just to those undertaking building work but also to occupants.

Hence, Armco advises property owners and contractors not to rely solely on visual cues but to seek professional asbestos surveys for accurate identification. These surveys are critical in older properties where asbestos use is more common.

Health Risks Associated with Asbestos

The health risks associated with asbestos exposure are well-documented and serious. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs, causing long-term damage. Asbestos exposure is known to cause several severe respiratory conditions, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma – a particularly aggressive form of cancer associated with asbestos. These health issues often develop years after exposure, making it imperative to identify and manage asbestos before it becomes a hazard. These are just some of the dangers of asbestos.

Workers in the construction and demolition industries must understand these risks, as they’re most likely to encounter disturbed asbestos. For businesses like Armco, ensuring worker and public safety involves not just identifying asbestos but also implementing measures to control or eliminate exposure. This includes proper training, use of protective equipment, and following strict guidelines during the removal or containment of asbestos.

Professional Asbestos Survey

Conducting a professional asbestos survey is essential in buildings where asbestos presence is suspected. These surveys are designed to comprehensively assess the property, identifying any ACMs and their condition. Armco, as a specialist in this field, employs experienced surveyors who can distinguish between different types of asbestos and the risks they pose.

During a survey, samples of suspected ACMs are often taken for laboratory analysis to confirm the presence of asbestos. This process not only helps in identifying the specific type of asbestos but also informs the appropriate course of action for its management or removal.

It’s a critical step in ensuring the safety of ongoing construction or renovation work and for the long-term safety of building occupants.

Dealing with Asbestos

If asbestos is identified in a property, it’s crucial to handle it correctly. Disturbing ACMs without proper precautions can release harmful fibres into the air. In the UK, there are specific legal requirements and guidelines for managing and disposing of asbestos safely.

This often involves engaging licensed professionals like Armco, who have the expertise and equipment to deal with asbestos without risking public health.

Property owners should never attempt to remove asbestos themselves. Instead, they should contact a professional asbestos removal company to assess the situation and carry out any necessary work. This ensures compliance with health and safety regulations and minimises the risk of asbestos exposure to workers and the public.


Recognising the presence of asbestos and managing it effectively is a vital aspect of ensuring safety in construction and property management. For organisations like Armco, this involves not only the identification and removal of asbestos but also educating property owners and construction workers about its risks and the correct procedures for handling it. Awareness and proactive management are key to mitigating the health risks associated with asbestos, thereby safeguarding both public health and the environment.

In summary, identifying asbestos is a critical step in managing its risks. Whether you’re a property owner, a contractor, or a worker in the construction industry, it’s crucial to understand the appearance, location, and health risks of asbestos.

Professional surveys, such as those conducted by Armco, play a pivotal role in accurately identifying asbestos and guiding its safe management or removal. As such, seeking expert advice and services is the best course of action to ensure compliance with legal requirements and the safety of all involved.

Published Jan 30, 2024

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