There are currently no regulations overseeing the management of asbestos in private dwellings, Duty of care would however apply to contractors carrying out work in your home. This doesn’t make the risks with asbestos any less significant or mean that it wasn’t used in domestic properties. It means that it’s up to you as a homeowner how you manage any suspected asbestos in your home.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which has a unique property to become fibrous once crushed. There are 6 forms of asbestos, however, only 3 were commonly used. These are Chrysotile – white asbestos, Amosite – brown asbestos and Crocidolite – blue asbestos.
Why was asbestos used?
Asbestos was used extensively as a building material from the late 1800’s commercially and was also put into some domestic properties. Asbestos may be present in any home built or refurbished up to the year 2000. Asbestos is typically found in floor tiles, textured coatings, soffits, integral garage ceilings, in detached garages and various other locations within a domestic property.
Should we be concerned?
Any asbestos containing materials can become cause for concern if they become damaged or deteriorate over time as the fibres can be released in to the air. Long term exposure to asbestos fibres can cause long term damage and an increased risk of contracting an asbestos related disease, however, this is normally from industrial exposure whilst working with asbestos. The HSE recommend that all exposure is reduced as far as possible, so knowing where asbestos is located within your property and keeping it in good condition is therefore important.
Will we be exposed to asbestos?
The level of exposure to asbestos will depend on the condition of the asbestos in your home and the type of material it is found in. If the asbestos containing materials are in good condition and are in areas where they are unlikely to get damaged then the risk of exposure is low. It is advisable however to take care when carrying out any works on your property and to avoid disturbing any materials you suspect may contain asbestos.
Where will I find it?
Cement, artex, floor tiles, lino, textiles, composites and insulation board are some of the more common materials that can be found in domestic properties; however, some more unusual built domestic properties can have insulation (lagging) particularly in a larger property with a cellar or basement. Other domestic properties which were situated near asbestos manufacturing plants may also have loose fill asbestos as it would have been very easy and cheap to obtain.
- Asbestos cement is cement mixed with asbestos. It’s hard and grey and was used as large, corrugated sheets for roofs, for example for garages and sheds. It was also manufactured in a flat sheet and used as wall cladding for buildings such as detached garages, integral garage ceilings and sheds; and as boiler flues.
- Textured coatings (Artex). Hard, and may be white or painted over. Often used on ceilings or walls and can have a stippled type appearance.
- Floor tiles and old lino. These could be located under a carpet.
- Textiles made from asbestos may be found in fuse boxes, old fire blankets and even ironing boards.
- Asbestos composites can be found as toilet cisterns, toilet seats, windowsills and bath panels.
- Asbestos insulating board (AIB). Similar in appearance to plasterboard, therefore hard to distinguish as a non-asbestos material.
- Insulation made from asbestos is mostly found around heating systems and pipes. Fibres are easily released when disturbed.
- Loose asbestos in cavity walls, under floorboards and in the loft. It’s fluffy and may be blue-grey or white.