We have been working in construction sector for decades. On our path we crossed many materials, tools, and inventions claimed to be great innoations, a step towards the future. Asbestos was one of these: for years and years, building companies invested on this material and used it massively because of its resistance to fire and its availability in nature. And that’s why we have a problem, nowadays. A problem called asbestos removal. Asbestos, in fact, was banned in 1999 due to risks for human health. Let’s see in detail.
What is asbestos
Asbestos is a group of six minerals very similar in terms of physical characteristics, which made their fortune in the construction business: high melting temperature and strong fibres.
Asbestos had been widely used for fireproof coatings, roofing, pipes, and Artex coatings.
However, in spite of being very strong, the fibres of which asbestos is made of start to untie over the time, so they become very volatile and they start to spread in the air.
Breathing asbestos can lead to lung cancer, and it is very likely to inhale it without realising, because the fibres do not generate any odours nor are visible. Also, symptoms usually occur after years from the exposure, in fact asbestos is still causing 5,000 deaths a year in the UK.
Various types of asbestos
As we said, asbestos is a group of six minerals, all with different usages in construction:
- Chrysotile asbestos: the most common, used for fire-proofing;
- Amosite asbestos: used for acoustic insulation, still very common;
- Crocidolite asbestos: the so-called blue asbestos, used as a fire-proof coating;
- Anthophyllite asbestos: an alloy of iron and magnesium, used as an insulating material;
- Tremolite asbestos: not used in construction, but still found in many mineral deposits;
- Actinolite asbestos: very rare and not used in construction.
What to do if you find asbestos in your home
First thing, you should check if it is a kind of asbestos that can be removed without any licence.
If asbestos is left in place and it does not present any damages, the best you can do is leave it where it is, but check from time to time if there are any damages and if the fibres start to untie.
If that is the case, there are high chances that you can solve the problem by coating and sealing the interested part with an insulating material, but it is critical that you have the right training and tools to do it. If you are not sure you do, the best course of action is to seek advice: every council has health officers who deal with asbestos removal every day.
It is likely that if you have any asbestos in your home it is located on the roof or the ceiling (like Artex or similar). Do not try to drill, scrape or use sandpaper on it, or you will release a lot of dangerous fibres in the air.
If you want to do a work in any part of the house, you must warn the workers of the presence of asbestos, so they can adopt all the necessary precautions.
For further information, we recommend to visit the HSE website.