The word asbestos today conjures up a genuine fear of irreversible damage to health and we now recognise that many deaths today are attributable to people working with asbestos many years ago, but the risk of catching an asbestos related disease continues.
Asbestos was so widely used in the 20th century that we can be confident that the majority of buildings built before 1985 probably have some asbestos in them. Since the use of asbestos in building products was not finally prohibited until 1999 we can only be sure a property is asbestos free if it was built after 2000
So anyone working on a building erected prior to 2000 may be at danger of being exposed to asbestos fibres unless a check for asbestos is carried out before the work starts.
The regulations to manage asbestos were introduced to help reduce this risk. They state that all non domestic buildings must be surveyed for asbestos and where found a management plan put in place. The survey must then be made available to everyone who needs to see it, such as builders or others who might disturb the building fabric. More information can be found on this page.
There is a general belief that asbestos containing products are always releasing dangerous quantities of fibres and therefore as soon as they are recognised they should be removed and disposed of. This would be counter productive. When many ACM that are in good condition and are not being disturbed they will not be releasing dangerous quantities of fibres. As soon as they are disturbed to be removed, however careful the operative is, they will release larger quantities of fibres than if the material was left alone.
Many asbestos containing materials have a very long life and so if left until they come to the end of their economic life they could be in place for another 50 + years. If they are removed in the near future, because their danger has been exaggerated, then in the short term a higher than necessary quantity of fibres will be released into the environment, which would be counter productive.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance, so some asbestos fibres are being naturally liberated into the atmosphere all the time. So everybody is exposed to some asbestos fibres at all times, whether working under an asbestos cement roof, playing in the local park or sailing across the ocean. At the very low natural levels they do not cause a danger, they become dangerous when the level of free fibres is increased by the inappropriate use by man.
There is a large amount of ignorance about the amount of asbestos in products, the amount in buildings and the health hazards associated with asbestos in buildings.
The AIC does not have all the answers but it does have some that can be found on this web site.
The Advice Note ‘Working With Asbestos Cement Products" advises how the products should be worked with to keep fibre release to a minimum.
In the FAQ area there are other techniques on how to keep fibre release to a minimum when working with other products.
When asbestos containing materials are found, how they are treated should be based on the following advice:-
The Asbestos Information Centre is probably the BEST place to advertise your asbestos web site, for removal, consultancy or advice; e-mail email@example.com for more information.
We have done our best to ensure that any information provided is accurate but it has been obtained from a number of different sources and so the Asbestos Information Centre can not be held responsible for any inaccuracies. If you do notice any inaccuracies please advise us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be corrected. This web site is not a complete guide to the Health and Safety responsibilities when dealing with asbestos containing products. The information given is of a general nature and so does not address the specific circumstances of any particular situation. The guidance is given with the best intentions but nothing in this web site shall create or be deemed to create any obligations, whether expressed or implied, on the AIC.