Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have been used for over 150 years. It was widely used in the building industry from the 1950’s because of its strength, insulation and fire retardation properties, but whilst it was ideal construction, we have since learned of its deadly nature. Banned from 2000, it is still alarming to think that most buildings constructed before then are likely to contain asbestos – especially when there are over 3500 uses for the deadly mineral!
There are three main types of asbestos:
- Crocidolite (blue) – This type of asbestos has the least heat resistant properties out of all the types of asbestos, it was used to insulate steam engines and in some spray-on coatings, pipe insulation and cement products.
- Amosite (brown) – This type of asbestos was used most frequently in pipe insulation and cement sheeting, it can also be found in ceiling tiles, insulating board and in thermal insulation products. Amosite has needle-like fibres.
- Chrysotile (white) – Chrysotile was the most commonly used type of asbestos, it can be found in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors of properties. It was also used in car brake linings, pipe insulation, gaskets and boiler seals.
Crocidolite and Amosite are the most dangerous but it is almost impossible to determine if you are working with asbestos just by looking at it.
Asbestos can be found on over 3500 products used on the inside and outside of buildings. For a useful guide to common uses of asbestos see the list below:
- Corrugated asbestos cement roofs on farms, garages and industrial buildings
- Wall cladding
- Downpipes, gutters and flues
- Textured wall and ceiling coatings
- Boiler and pipe lagging
- Floor tiles and fuse boxes
- Fire blankets
- Old heat retardant gloves
- Toilet cisterns and bath panels
- Window sills
- Brake linings
You can also visit the UK Health and Safety Executive guide.
Remember, asbestos materials will remain safe while they are in good condition and it is only when asbestos fibres become airborne that it becomes dangerous.
Legislation brought out in 2006 (Control of Asbestos Regulation 2006) means all non domestic property owners have a legal duty of care to manage asbestos. You are required to find out if there is asbestos, assess the risk, prepare a plan to manage it and then act upon it with regular reviews. You are also required to provide an information register to anyone who is likely to work on or disturb the asbestos.