Asbestos is a mineral that comes in many forms and has been used in construction and other uses because of its excellent fire resistance properties. As long as it is in good condition and is not being, or going to be, disturbed or damaged, there is NO risk to health. But if it is disturbed or damaged, it can become a danger to health. Asbestos related diseases, which can take between 15 and 40 years to develop include: mesothelioma, asbestosis or fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs and lung cancer. At least 3500 people each year die of Mesothelioma and other asbestos related lung cancer, as a result in past exposure to asbestos. There is no cure for asbestos related diseases. Those at greatest risk of exposure to respirable asbestos fibres are carpenters, joiners, electricians, shop fitters, plumbers, IT cable and demolition workers.
There are three main types of asbestos:
Chrysotile, Crocidolite, & Amosite
They are usually called white, brown and blue asbestos respectively: however, they cannot be identified by their colour. Blue and brown are the two most dangerous forms and have not been imported into the UK for nearly 20 years and their use was banned in 1985. White asbestos was banned (except for a small number of specialised uses) in 1999. Many of the asbestos-containing materials found in buildings include a combination of two or more asbestos types.
Asbestos is more resistant to acid and fire than any other material. These qualities were used widely several years ago in applications across both domestic and industrial environments, such as;
- Wall and floor tile
- Pipe & Building Insulation
- Vehicle brake pads
- Ironing board pads
- Electrical wiring
- Carpet underlay
- Patching compounds
- Textured paints
Flat or corrugated sheeting containing asbestos has been used for garage and shed roofs and wall coverings. Moulded asbestos cement has been used for cold water tanks, external rainwater pipes, asbestos cement slates, guttering, decking, lining under eaves and flue pipes. Asbestos cement is used in roofing materials, pressure sewerage and drainage pipes and wall and roof covering materials. Asbestos cement products normally contain between 10% and 15% asbestos.
Asbestos cement is the most widely used asbestos material and numerous enquiries are received each week from residents seeking advice. It is found in many types of building as profiled sheets for roofing and wall-cladding, in flat sheets and partition boards for linings to walls and ceilings, in bath panels, soffit boards, fire surrounds, flue pipes, cold water tanks and as roofing tiles and slates. It has been commonly used as roofing and cladding for garages and sheds and also in guttering and drainpipes. Asbestos cement products are unlikely to release high levels of fibres because of the way they are made, unless they are subject to extreme abrasion. Damage from weathering may also release a small amount of fibres.