What To Do If You Suspect Asbestos In Your Home

What To Do If You Suspect Asbestos In Your Home

Although the use of asbestos was not banned in the UK until 1999, buildings constructed since the mid 1980’s are unlikely to contain any of this substance.  However, if you’re doing any building work, refurbishment, maintenance or remodelling, then checking for asbestos is an essential part of the process. 

Asbestos cement has been widely used as a cladding material and may still be found in sheds and garages as well as inside buildings.  Asbestos fibres are resistant to heat and chemicals which is why asbestos has been so widely used in building materials and products, especially for the purpose of fireproofing.

When asbestos containing materials (ACMs) age or get damaged, they can release asbestos fibres into the air.  These fibres may be inhaled deeply into the lungs where they will cause damage.  High levels of asbestos fibres in the lungs will lead to respiratory problems and even cancer.  This means that the removal of asbestos must be undertaken in a safe manner by fully trained professionals who are licensed to carry out this type of work. If you identify asbestos or ACMs in your home, there are some steps that you can take to ensure your safety.

Asbestos materials in good condition are often best left where they are.  So long as they remain undamaged, they should be stable.  However, if there is any chance that they may become damaged, removal will need to be considered.  During the removal process, there will be higher levels of asbestos in the air for quite some time.  This means that the area or premises will need to be vacant for quite some time.

Asbestos materials that are slightly damaged can often be repaired with a sealing process, enclosing the material with paint or a specialist sealant.  You will need advice here on the most appropriate action to take in your individual circumstances.

Some asbestos materials (lagging, insulating boards, and sprayed asbestos) must be removed by contractors who are licensed to do so by the government.  Licensed contractors need to comply with regulations in order to ensure that the asbestos is removed and disposed of safely.

If you have asbestos in your home that has been deemed safer to leave in place, then make sure you perform regular checks.  You’ll need to check the condition of these materials from time to time to ensure that they haven’t become damaged, so posing a risk.

If you’re planning any building or refurbishment, then it’s vital to make sure that any contractors, builders, maintenance workers are informed about any asbestos in your building.  They will have the correct asbestos training to ensure that any work they undertake is done safely and is not a health risk.

If you’re unsure about the safety issues and legal requirements, the first step is to get in touch with your local authority.  The Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) published a handy booklet for homeowners titled “Asbestos in the Home” – this is free to download by searching the internet – get hold of a copy for further information on asbestos safety in the home.