Asbestos was totally banned in the UK in 1999 so new buildings that were constructed from the year 2000 onwards will be asbestos free. However, most of us in the UK live in homes that were built before that date and this means that asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs) may be present. This means that any homeowners who are planning remodelling or refurbishment work on the house will need to check for asbestos before undertaking any work.
Asbestos cement was commonly used in cladding procedures and is often found in garages and sheds as well as inside homes. Because asbestos is resistant to both heat and chemicals, the material was widely used in the construction industry both for building work and for fireproofing purposes.
If asbestos (or ACMs) has become damaged (or aged), it’s possible that asbestos fibres will be released into the surrounding environment – this means that they are in the air and are likely to be inhaled and cause damage to the lungs of anybody in the building. If asbestos fibres are breathed in, they can lead to respiratory problems and asbestos related cancer. This is why asbestos needs to be removed by fully certified professionals who are licensed to carry out this type of work safely and dispose of the materials in an appropriate manner.
If you find asbestos (or ACMs) in your home, then you will need to take the correct precautions to ensure the safety of yourself and your family. If the asbestos is still in good condition, then the safest option is to leave it in situ and not disturb it in any way. However, if there is any chance that the asbestos may become damaged, then you should consider having the material removed by a certified professional. During the removal process, there is likely to be high levels of asbestos in the atmosphere which means that the area will need to be vacated while the work is being done. If you discover asbestos that is slightly damaged, it’s often easier and cheaper to repair it by sealing it.
You’ll need to enclose the material in paint or a specialist sealant which will prevent it from deteriorating further and escaping into the atmosphere. This means that you’ll need advice on the most appropriate way of sealing the asbestos. Some ACMs (insulating boards, lagging and sprayed asbestos) will need to be removed by contractors who are licensed to do so. These contractors are legally bound to comply with legislation when undertaking the work in order to ensure that the material is removed and disposed of safely.
If your home contains asbestos that needs sealing to make it safe, then it will be necessary to perform regular checks to ensure that they do not become damaged and present a health risk.
Any homeowners who are planning refurbishment or remodelling work will need to ensure that any builders, maintenance workers or other contractors who work on the building are fully informed about any asbestos in the building. This means that they will be able to make sure that all the work done takes into account the presence of asbestos and take the necessary safety precautions.