Despite being banned in the UK for almost twenty years, asbestos still kills thousands of people every year. It’s a silent killer whose symptoms may take decades to develop. No one wants to live or work near asbestos, so how can you check if your building is affected, and if it is, what should you do about it?
The dangers of asbestos have been well documented over the years, and it’s been almost twenty years since it was banned from use in construction in the UK. Despite this, asbestos remains a silent killer, and any building constructed as recently as the year 2000 may well contain asbestos.
So how concerned should we be? What’s the current state of play? And what should you do if you find asbestos in your roof or anywhere else?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been used for thousands of years in clothing, pottery candle wicks and even in the preservation of dead bodies.
Here in the UK, asbestos became widely used during the Industrial Revolution, when its fire and heat-resistant properties were ideal for use in steam engines, boilers, turbines and pipe insulation. More recently, asbestos has also been widely used in brake linings, drywall, ship-building, and perhaps most notoriously in roof insulation.
It was only recently, in the 1980s and 1990s that people became aware of the dangers of asbestos, in particular its carcinogenic effects.
It was eventually banned entirely in the UK in the year 2000, but this was after the material had been in widespread use in the construction industry for decades. And since the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases can take decades to develop, we’re still dealing with the after-effects today. Astonishingly, asbestos kills up to five thousand people every year, and some twenty workers die each week from asbestos exposure in the past.
These are harrowing figures which show that asbestos is still a very real danger, and not just to tradesmen and those working with its removal; asbestos also poses a health hazard to anyone working in an affected building and in the surrounding areas.
The risks of asbestos exposure occur when damage, fire or disturbance to the product cause asbestos fibres to become loose and potentially airborne. When these tiny fibres are inhaled they cannot decompose and remain permanently lodged in the lungs, potentially leading to fatal diseases as the body attempts to fight these alien fragments. Initially it will cause soreness, inflammation, infection and a range of respiratory problems, the most serious of which is lung cancer.
So, and without wishing to sound alarmist, any structure which was built or refurbished before the year 2000 can potentially contain asbestos. How can you find out if you have an asbestos problem in your roof or building, and what should you do about it?
Asbestos is found in a variety of roofing uses, both indoors and outdoors. Interior ceilings were sometimes sprayed with an asbestos coating, and asbestos insulating board was often used in ceiling tiles.
On roofs, asbestos cement can often be found in panels, gutters, insulation, roof shingles, siding, downpipes, or in the entire roof itself. Here is a link to a useful guide from the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to identify where asbestos may be present on your property: https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/building.htm.
Asbestos can be hard to detect when mixed with other materials, but in its natural form it comes in blue, brown, and white varieties. Asbestos is at its most dangerous when the small fibres are disturbed and become airborne through use of a drill or cutting equipment, so if you’re in any doubt you should avoid tampering with it.
Airborne asbestos has no particular smell, is hard to spot, and the effects of inhaling it most likely won’t show up for many years to come.
The first thing to say is that you should never undertake a visual inspection yourself – this is a job for the experts. But if you do find something which you think may be asbestos, you should never, repeat NEVER, attempt to disturb it.
Any suspected asbestos fibres should only be investigated by a PASMA-trained specialist. However, you can help by locating any plans or documentation relating to your building, as these may contain important clues as to the whereabouts of any asbestos on site.
At Asbestos Removals London we provide a full range of asbestos services, from a thorough asbestos testing procedure, to safely removing any samples from your site.
Our team can remove any potential asbestos samples using safe methods which minimise the amount of asbestos particles released into the air. Any suspected asbestos is then transported in sealed containers and taken away for testing. Areas which have been damaged by the removal of suspect materials are then made safe and weatherproof to prevent any further disruption to your business.
Despite the potential hazards of asbestos, finding it in your building is no cause for alarm so long as you treat it correctly and with respect. During our survey we’ll be able to advise you how you can continue to operate safely around asbestos.
Then, once our survey is complete, we’ll be able to provide you with further advice on whether you need a full asbestos roof refurbishment or a simple small repair.
Asbestos Removals London specialises in quick and non-disruptive commercial asbestos testing. If you think you’ve identified asbestos, or if you feel your property may be at risk, text ASBESTOS to 66777 to get our experts today and book a free site survey.