According to the ‘Health and Safety Executive’ (HSE) Approximately 750.000 homes and commercial buildings contain some asbestos if they were built prior to 1980. Asbestos – containing materials (ACM’s) become a health hazard when they are damaged or disturbed. They release asbestos fibres and dust into the air where they can be inhaled into the lungs. Asbestos fibres that are not coughed up out of lungs or not cleared by macrophages, medical evidence suggests that some asbestos fibres cannot be broken down my macrophages (a part of the body’s immune system that engulfs lung particles), and the fibres can cause an inflammatory response, disrupt normal cells, promote cell division and lead to an asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma.
The magnified picture below depicts an asbestos fibre and macrophages attempting to break it down.
If you have purchased a pre – 1980 property, there is a fair chance that you will find (ACM’s) in either: walls, ceilings, floors, roofs, or all of these.
Some (ACM’s) are more susceptible to damage than others, particularly materials that contain higher amounts of asbestos, for example, lagging, insulation boards and sprayed coatings can contain up to 85% asbestos and are more likely to be manufactured from blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos – which are considered to be the 2 most lethal asbestos types. Whereas – ‘asbestos containing cement’ only contains 10-15% white (chrysotile) asbestos; which fibres are considered to be less harmfull than blue and brown varieties.
The list below prioritises (ACM’s) by their potential high risk of fibre release.
- Pipe lagging – used to cover plumbing pipes. Can contain up to 100% asbestos.
- Sprayed asbestos coatings – used in: ceilings, walls, internal roofs and soffits. Can contain up to 85% asbestos.
- Insulation boards – used for thermal insulation, and fire protection. Can contain up to 45% asbestos.
- Ceiling tiles
- Millboard, paper products used for insulating electrical wires/equipment. Can contain up to 45% asbestos.
- Asbestos cement products, has been commonly used as bath panels, roofing and cladding for garages and sheds and also in guttering and drainpipes. Can contain 15 – 45% asbestos.
- Asbestos textured coatings – can contain up to 5% white (chrysotile) asbestos
- Bitumen roofing material -contains white (chrysotile) asbestos, contains 2- 5%.
- Vinyl and thermoplastic floor tiles.
- Mastics, sealants, adhesives and putties.
Do’s and don’ts of handling asbestos.
- Drill, sand, scrape, saw, cut etc, asbestos suspect material
- Remove asbestos materials yourself
Locate asbestos materials within your home and inspect it for signs of degradation or damage. I.e. asbestos can crumble and disintegrate with age, making it friable – where it can release fibres and dust into the air.
- Contact your local council or an asbestos safety removal company for advice regarding safe removal.
The illustration below shows possible places where asbestos material can be located.