It’s estimated that nearly 50% of UK homes have some asbestos containing materials in them. Because of the nature of asbestos this is not typically a problem as long as the material retains its integrity. It’s only when the asbestos containing insulation, coating, floor tiles or other material is disturbed in a way that results in it becoming powdered and airborne that problems arise. Yet, because of the pervasiveness of asbestos there are fairly regular instances of homeowners becoming accidentally exposed and in this post we’re going to touch on how to deal with such a situation.
Dealing with Accidental Asbestos Exposure
It’s unfortunate but it happens. Someone is renovating their living room and as part of the remodelling they’re installing, say, new crown mouldings. During the process of fastening the new crowns in place they accidentally miss with the hammer and take a chunk out of their old Artex ceiling. Dust and debris rain down. What should they do?
- Stop work immediately and leave the area – Don’t hesitate. Get out of the room as quickly as is safe to do so and close the door behind you if there is a door to close. If there is not notify anyone in the house they should leave.
- Remove your clothes – Once you’ve left the work area slow down. Continuing to move quickly will disturb any dust on your clothes. If possible put on rubber gloves then carefully remove clothing items and place them in a plastic bag. Toss the gloves into the bag when you’re done.
- Shower – Take a shower and make a point to thoroughly wash your hair as asbestos fibres are known to attach themselves to human hair.
- Call the experts – Once you have closed off the area, evacuated others, disposed of your clothes, showered and put on clean clothing it’s time to call a licensed asbestos removal contractor. Have them in ASAP to ascertain the risk level and advise you on your options.
- Remove the asbestos containing material – Once the immediate danger has passed you should have the asbestos containing material removed. In order to minimize further danger to yourself you should have the asbestos removal expert handle the removal for you.
- Report the incident – Once the presence of asbestos containing fibres has been confirmed the removal company should notify the HSE.
- Relax – Although any exposure to airborne asbestos should be taken seriously a single momentary exposure is unlikely to cause long term health problems. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, only that there is a low probability.
When it comes to asbestos an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. If you know that parts of your home like old Artex ceilings contain asbestos have the material removed by a professional before undertaking any remodelling work nearby. And if you have any doubts about whether there is asbestos lurking in your home purchase an asbestos test kit and follow the instructions carefully. If the kit confirms the presence of asbestos contact a licensed removal contractor to discuss options.