Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction until it was banned in the late 1990s. Buildings constructed before the year 2000 may still have asbestos in them, but asbestos is only dangerous if it is poorly managed and subsequently disturbed.
If Asbestos fibres are breathed in they can get stuck in your lungs, causing chronic illness. The health effects caused by asbestos are Mesothelioma, Asbestosis, pleural disease and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Asbestos was widely used in building materials due to its resistance to heat, fire and sound. It could be found in ceilings and flooring tiles, cement, roofing, and insulation boards.
Asbestos was also used in other products including vehicle parts, boilers, gaskets, electrical wires and textiles.
The three main types of asbestos include:
Blue and brown asbestos was banned in 1985, and white asbestos was banned in 1999.
Yes – it is illegal to sell (or give away free of charge) any items containing asbestos in the UK.
If your house was built before 1999 it is likely to have asbestos in it. However, asbestos is only harmful if it is broken or disturbed.
It is highly recommended that you do not dispose of asbestos unless you have the right qualifications to remove asbestos safely.
Stop work, inform your employer immediately, and a risk assessment must be carried out. This will then help your employer to decide whether the work needs a specialist licensed contractor or remedial actions taken.
You shouldn’t be working with asbestos containing materials unless you are competent and been authorised by your employer who will have assessed the need to be licensed and put systems in place to prevent exposure and harm.
The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992 states ‘every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work.’
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 requires an employer to have a license to be able to begin licensable work with asbestos.
If you think you have been exposed to asbestos then tell your employer who will have arrangements in place that might include visiting your GP. However, most people do not develop a serious condition as a result of a single exposure to asbestos.