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Asbestos

What asbestos is and where it can be found, what you should do if you have it, disposal methods, professional advice and how to find a licensed contractor. 

What is asbestos?

The term ‘asbestos’ refers to a group of six fibrous, naturally occurring minerals. It has many qualities including being durable, flexible, a natural insulation product, great at absorbing sound and having resistance to fire, heat and electricity.

The three main types of asbestos are:

  • Chrysotile or ‘white asbestos’ - known for its long, curly fibres and was the most common type to be used commercially
  • Amosite or ‘brown asbestos’ - has brown or grey coloured fibres and was the second most commonly used type
  • Crocidolite or ‘blue asbestos’ - with its straight blue needle-like fibres was mostly used for thermal insulation spray or fireproofing.  

Other less used types are Tremolite, Anthophyllite and Actinolite. 

Please note: all of these can harm you if you breathe in dust containing the fibres.

Uses of asbestos:

First recorded uses of asbestos date back as early as 2500 B.C. when it was used as a temper for ceramics. Over the years it has also been used in:

  • textiles for ancient shrouds and napkins, and papers for writings
  • household products, such as hair dryers, irons, ironing board covers, toasters, coffee pots and electric blankets
  • many building materials, such as wall insulation, drywall tape, gaskets, cement pipes, rain gutters, plaster, artex and lagging
  • refrigeration units and carriages in the railroad industry
  • insulation for steam pipes, boilers and incinerators by shipbuilders
  • brake pads, shoes and clutch plates in the automobile industry. 

Where can asbestos be found?

It can be found in any industrial or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000. It is in many common materials used in the building trade, such as pipe lagging, vinyl floor tiles, roofing felt or asbestos insulating board, which could be in partition walls, soffits or ceiling tiles. 

The image gallery on the Health and Safety Executive website has examples of where asbestos can be found and gives you an idea of what asbestos can look like.

Is asbestos dangerous?

Yes, asbestos kills around 5,000 workers each year. Around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure.

It is not necessarily dangerous when in the home, unless it is disturbed or damaged as this causes fibres to be released into the air. Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause serious diseases, including mesothelioma cancer which is a rare cancer that forms within the lining of the lungs. You will not notice you are affected immediately as these diseases take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to treat. 

You can find out more about the fatal and serious diseases that asbestos can cause on the Health and Safety Executive website. More information about mesothelioma cancer is available on the NHS Choices Website.

What should I do if I have asbestos?

  • Don't panic. It’s best to leave asbestos alone, especially if it is in good condition and unlikely to get damaged. Check it from time to time to make sure it hasn’t been damaged or started to deteriorate.
  • Slightly damaged asbestos-containing materials can sometimes be repaired by sealing or enclosing them. You should contact a professional trained to carry out non-licensed asbestos work to do this.
  • Any badly-damaged asbestos-containing materials that cannot be protected should be removed by a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive
  • Make sure you do not sand, drill or saw asbestos materials while carrying out any DIY work in the home, and always inform any builders, maintenance workers or contractors that there are asbestos materials in your home before they start any work. 

More guidance is available on  Health and Safety Executive website.

Where can I dispose of asbestos?

Small amounts of household asbestos, such as up to the size of a single domestic garage and no more than 25 sheets, can be taken to an asbestos bank available at the following household waste recycling sites:

Airmyn

Carnaby

Humberfield, Hessle

Preston

Wrap your asbestos cement waste in thick polythene sheeting (two layers if possible). Seal all the joints with tape to make a parcel, and don't to forget to put some extra protection on the corners of asbestos sheets. This will stop the sharp edges puncturing your parcel. For the health and safety of others do not break up the asbestos!

For larger amounts of household asbestos, or if you are a business who needs to dispose of asbestos, please contact a specialist contractor

Where can I get professional advice about asbestos?

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(01482) 395937

How can I find a licensed contractor to remove my asbestos?

You can find a list of contractors that are licensed to work with asbestos on the  Health and Safety Executive website.