Asbestos in the Home

What (and What Not) to Be Concerned About

Asbestos is a highly hazardous substance and can cause significant ill-health to anyone who disturbs or damages it. Asbestos was widely used as a building material in the 1970s and 1980s so it’s important to be vigilant if you plan to carry out maintenance or renovation work on premises built before the year 2000.

I’m worried that my home contains asbestos, what should I do?

If the asbestos containing material is in good condition – i.e. it’s not damaged and has been left alone, and you don’t plan to disturb it – then it doesn’t pose a risk to health and it is fine to leave it where you found it. The asbestos only becomes harmful to health when it is disturbed and the asbestos fibres are released into the air.

For example, if you have a garage, a roof or a storage heater on your premises that you suspect contains asbestos, the material will do no harm if left undisturbed.

If the asbestos containing material is in poor condition – i.e. it’s showing signs of damage or has been disturbed during building work – then it’s important you leave it alone and never try to remove it yourself. When asbestos containing materials are damaged or disturbed they release thousands of harmful fibres into the air which can be inhaled by people nearby.

For example, if an asbestos containing (or suspected asbestos containing) roof, wall or ceiling has been damaged when carrying out building repair or renovations.

You should never carry out major building, maintenance or demolition work on materials you know or suspect to contain asbestos. Always contact the relevant enforcing authority first.

If you only plan to carry out minor work on asbestos containing materials, such as drilling holes for fixtures and fittings, repainting a ceiling or applying new plasterboard, you can do so provided that you’re appropriately trained and know how to assess the risks and work safely. Minor work like this is known as non-licensable work.

Asbestos Removal

If you suspect (or know) that asbestos is present in your premises then the first step is to leave it alone. Disturbing or damaging the asbestos can cause harmful fibres to be released into the air so it should always be left in situ and as you found it.

You should then inform your local authority of your suspicions and arrange for the material to be tested and/or removed by a licensed contractor. Only licensed asbestos removal companies should attempt to remove asbestos containing materials – never attempt to do this yourself.

You can find a list of asbestos removal companies here and see the Health and Safety Executive’s list of current asbestos licence holders here.