What are the health risks associated/caused by asbestos?
Asbestos is responsible for over 5000 deaths every year. Younger people, if routinely exposed to asbestos fibres over time, are at greater risk of developing asbestos-related disease than older workers. This is due to the time it takes for the body to develop symptoms after exposure to asbestos (latency). Exposure to asbestos can cause four main diseases:
- Mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs; it is always fatal and is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos)
- Asbestos-related lung cancer (which is almost always fatal)
- Asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs which is not always fatal but can be a very debilitating disease, greatly affecting quality of life)
- Diffuse pleural thickening (a thickening of the membrane surrounding the lungs which can restrict lung expansion leading to breathlessness.)
You can get further detailed information on these diseases from the HSE website.
It can take anywhere between 15-60 years for any symptoms to develop after exposure, so these diseases will not affect you immediately but may do later in life.
I have just bought/ am looking to buy a property. Could it contain asbestos?
Asbestos may be part of any commercial or domestic building which was built or refurbished before the year 2000. Asbestos can typically still be found in any of the following:
- asbestos cement products (pipes, flues, roofs etc)
- lagging (on pipes and boilers etc)
- water tanks and toilet cisterns
- Acoustic Pads
- asbestos insulating board (AIB – which closely resembles typical plasterboard)
- loose asbestos in ceiling and wall cavities
- sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls and beams / columns
- textured decorative coatings (commonly referred to as Artex)
- floor tiles
- textiles and composites
HSE has produced an interactive diagram which illustrates where asbestos may be found. The asbestos image gallery also provides real photographs of typical asbestos-containing materials that can still be found today.
West Coast Surveys are available to come and take a sample of anything you or your building contractor thinks may contain asbestos and we will have the results back within 24-48 hours.
I think I may have asbestos in my home. What should I do?
Do not try and remove/repair any asbestos materials yourself if you haven’t had any training for non-licensed asbestos work. If you or a contractor think there may be asbestos in your home you must leave it alone and if you have work going on the work must halt immediately until you are certain it doesn’t contain asbestos. Give us a call and we can often come out to inspect the area ASAP.
Do I need an asbestos survey?
In your own house where you reside, and are the owner, there is no requirement to have or hold asbestos information. However, if tradesmen are required to undertake work on your house they (and by default you) have to be protected from any asbestos exposure. In that situation an appropriate survey should be carried out before the work commences. This will identify any asbestos containing materials likely to be encountered. We suggest:
- Always commission a survey before you buy a house.
- If your house was built before the year 2000 then it may contain asbestos.
- If you are having any work done to your house, make sure you or the tradesmen commission a survey before the work starts.
- If you are entering in to a lease to rent a property, ask the landlord for evidence of an asbestos survey before you sign the lease